Fluvanna Farmers Market growing

By Page H. Gifford

The Fluvanna Farmers Market, whose roots began at Pleasant Grove, has been around for years. Its multiple vendors have sold just about everything, including lamb, beef, eggs, plants, baked items, jams, and homegrown produce. 

The market in Fluvanna, however, has faced headwinds including a disagreement with the county over insurance.  The market has continued to look for a permanent home after setting up at the edge of the road at Pleasant Grove and in the back of CVS building. But then the pandemic hit, and the market was shut down.

On August 1, 2021, the market opened in the parking lot of ACE Hardware at Crofton Plaza with five volunteers organizing it, including Peggy Shanklin. Shanklin said it has been a bumpy restart. She blames the economy for the low turnout yet remains optimistic that more vendors will join and help the market grow.

According to the USDA Farmers Market directory, markets have been expanding throughout the U.S. since 1994. Though the pandemic has had an effect, it has not stopped the markets from emerging and attracting customers with the lure of fresh produce. 

Locally, some residents have cited Sunday as not being the best day for the market. Some said they go to church and then go home to eat lunch and by the time they come to the market everyone is packing up to leave. Others say the opening hours of 11 a.m.-2 p.m. are too hot to shop outdoors. When it was held at Pleasant Grove, the market was open on Tuesdays from 2-6 p.m. and when it was behind CVS it was held on Saturday mornings.

“We wanted to have a community event after church to bring people together,” said Shanklin of the reason for choosing Sunday afternoons.

Though local produce starts to pop up at markets in July, August is the prime season in Virginia.

“We have had vendors try to re-sell produce but we will only take vendors who are selling right off their farms,” she said. But there are other options, including fresh eggs, home-baked bread, and jams. In the old days, Sam Goin used to take orders for his grass-fed beef.

“It’s healthier eating, it’s local and we are not moving it to four corners of the U.S,” Shanklin said. “It’s all organic and fresh. No pesticides.” She added that people have complained about the prices but Shanklin pointed out that these are small farms, not expansive corporate-owned farms able to churn out produce. Studies show that prices at Farmers Market are often competitive and in some cases may be less than retail.

Shanklin and the other volunteers already have other ideas for attracting more customers and expanding the market. They have four farmers selling goods now, including Muddy Paws, Two Labs Coffee, Crick Hollow Farm, and Totes McGoats as well as a vendor selling CBD oil, the popular Simply A’glazing  selling doughnuts, and crafters.

“We have picnic tables, a food truck, and we are planning activities for kids,” she said. Some of their plans include coordinating with the Fluvanna County Public Library for children’s activities as well as face painting and treasure hunts.

Across the U.S. many Farmers Markets are addressing the same issues and are trying to make the markets more attractive for customers by offering a variety of activities and events. California and New York have the most Farmers Markets followed by Massachusetts and the mid-west. Virginia is tied with Iowa with 280 markets statewide. In the fertile Hudson Valley where they have thriving cattle farms, produce, and wineries, they believe the future is rosy for Farmers Markets. The bottom line everyone agrees upon is that locally grown produce tastes better.

“If you don’t support it, it will go away,” Shanklin said.

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