As you may have noticed last week, we were overwhelmed by our first-day turnout at the Workhouse Arts Center, thanks largely to the great effort by Arts Center staff on our behalf. We will be better prepared this week and expect to have product to sell through the entire market.
And we do have some great products to sell. No Uncle Fred’s BBQ this week — he will be on an every-other-week schedule. But we are hoping to bring in another great prepared-food vendor to rotate with him. Once the word gets out that they will have long lines at this market, I will have several from which to choose the very best. We should still have some strawberries this week at Alma’s and blueberries at Montoya’s coming up from the Northern Neck — and after these days of such warm weather, we may also see the first of the cherry and grape tomato varieties.
We will have more of those gorgeous greens and spring veggies from Blenheim Organic Gardens and before long, maybe by next week, peaches coming from West Virginia with Chester Hess. And don’t forget the meats and eggs at Wicked Oak Farm; the Anderson brothers are just gearing up for their first markets, so they are working hard to meet the demand. Great Harvest Bread promises to bring more bread this week, and our other prepared-food vendors who sold out last week will also pack more chocolate, more snack mix, more salad dressings, and more empanadas and pasties. Sounds like there is a meal in there somewhere!
And we have the recipes to help you out there, too. Please stop by our Smart Markets tent to pick up free recipes and to sign up for our weekly newsletter. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for even more timely announcements about each week’s markets.
See you at the market!
From the Market Master
This past week has provided a number of reminders and opportunities for me to think about how farmers’ markets can serve as more than just a place to shop for local fare; they can serve the community at large as teaching tools, as business incubators, and even as community-building venues through education about and outreach to that wonderfully diverse community we live in here in Northern Virginia.
In my original mission statement I pledged the following:
Smart Markets will provide a model of cultural outreach, offer nutrition and cooking education, and encourage activism on issues of environmental protection and community development within the nurturing spirit of vibrant and bustling markets.
- Educate the public about the short-term joys and long-term benefits of eating healthy from an early age, of the nutritional advantages of buying local and of the importance of sustainable agriculture to our environment;
- Provide a forum for teaching adults and children how to shop at a market and how to use the produce and products in preparing healthy and delicious meals;
- Provide a venue for multiethnic cultural exchange and the promotion of a shared interest in raising healthy children;
- Serve as a lively and interactive catalyst for community-building activities; and
- Encourage and support thriving neighborhoods.
We welcome you to become more than just buyers — we want you to join us in celebration of the good life, good times, good feelings and good food. We invite you to grow and prosper with us — and to have fun doing it!
Obviously, I had to focus on putting together successful markets before I could do much of anything else, but from the beginning Smart Markets has been true to that promise and to those objectives. Moving into our fifth year with six markets this year, I can now devote more of my own time to developing programming and creating partnerships that will not only serve as outreach for our markets but as the foundation for a wide variety of community-building projects in each of the communities we serve.
This year we will renew our partnership with the Fairfax County government’s in-house Live Well program, through which we will expand our education efforts to get more families cooking and eating together at home and increasing the incentives for county employees to do just that. At a Partnership Awards ceremony last Monday, I came away with a great list of other county partners who could help us reach non-county employees with the same programs, and you can bet I will be following up with them soon.
One of those programs is the effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve access for clients in the food-stamp program (now called SNAP) to fresh, healthy food. I have been reluctant to jump headlong into this without a support system in place that will offer these families the help they will need to get to markets, navigate the shopping protocols, know how to prepare what they can buy — which in some cases may be unfamiliar — and learn why it is important to eat this way in the first place. Previous experiments in this area have not been very successful, but I am now in touch with the leadership of organizations and communities that can help us do it right. With such a small budget ourselves I cannot afford to do it any other way, but I also hate to take money from any source and not produce results.
Another opportunity presented itself in a Washington Post story this week about Final Salute, an organization that has established a home for female veterans who are dealing with hardships such as medical issues, joblessness and homelessness. Finding no help available when needed, a young woman used what little money she had to start this organization on her own to be there for these women. I saw immediately in this story an opportunity to offer our markets as resources to provide opportunities for the veterans to rebuild their lives. I emailed and called and hope to learn what we can do together soon.
Throughout our communities we work with organizations that glean from our markets, but the cooperation usually doesn’t stop there. If an organization is feeding those in need, the clients also need more than just the food. I have been talking with Reston Interfaith about teaching at the market so that we can bring the women who usually just pick up what is left over to see what they can buy themselves and learn how to use it to raise healthy families.
That is what we are all about — helping to raise healthy families through vibrant and bustling markets. And that’s where everyone can be a part of that community we hope to build by helping us to expand our markets so we can expand our reach. Thanks to all of you who are already doing that by shopping with us.