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Farmers markets welcome spring shoppers
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Farmers markets welcome spring shoppers

MIDLOTHIAN—The weather is warm, farmers markets are open, and customers are flocking to find fresh, seasonal produce, meats, artisan goods and a sense of community.

From small neighborhood markets to large marketplaces in town squares, farmers markets serve as places for people to gather and connect with local growers and artisans. Market guests can find an assortment of produce—like asparagus, berries, green beans and leafy greens—as well as meats, cheeses, honey, baked goods and homemade wares among the commonwealth’s 267 farmers markets.

“That number is similar to last summer,” said Mary Delicate, Virginia Farmers Market Association marketing director. “More markets will pop up in the next month or so. However, we anticipate the number to hold fairly steady.”

Some of those markets will display a new certification as a Virginia Certified Farmers Market, a recent initiative launched by the VAFMA. Designated in three levels—Bronze, Silver and Gold—the certification highlights markets that meet and exceed best practices in categories like food safety, continuing education and public safety.

The effort allows participating farmers markets to distinguish themselves among consumers, vendors and their communities, Delicate said.

“When consumers shop at a Virginia Certified Farmers Market, they can trust that the market is a safe, welcoming and transparent source of local food,” she explained.

At Hopewell Farmers Market, a Gold Certified Market, manager Tisha Sawyer said farmers and visitors are gearing up for peak market season. Market visitors will see more producers and vendors, food offerings, live music, cooking demonstrations and expanded nutritional and educational programming to increase consumer awareness about local foods.

“We have a kids’ program called ‘Power of Produce,’ which provides fun, educational activities centered around produce and a two-bite taste challenge of seasonal produce items,” Sawyer said. “Participants receive a $5 token to use toward their produce purchase.”

In addition to many markets hosting their own shopper promotions, the Virginia Farm Market Fresh program continues to expand across the commonwealth—addressing food access and financial assistance.

Participants receive vouchers they can use to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers. Many markets also accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and participate in Virginia Fresh Match.

“The Virginia Farm Market Fresh program provides funds for eligible low-income seniors and WIC program recipients to use at farmers markets,” Delicate said. “The program is on track to double the number of participating farmers by the end of 2024.”

To find a farmers market near you, visit vdacs.virginia.gov/vagrown or vafma.org/virginia-markets.

Media: Contact Delicate at 804-399-7278 or Sawyer at 804-446-1055.

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