LEWISBURG (WVDN) – The Courthouse Farmers Market, held on Saturdays at the State Fair of West Virginia parking lot will be moved to the Robert C. Byrd Clinic in Lewisburg on the two Saturdays during the Fair. On Saturdays Aug 13 and Aug 20, vendors will be set up and parking will be available for customers at 1464 Jefferson St. N. in the parking lot of the clinic from 8 a.m.- 12 p.m.
After the State Fair is over, the large Courthouse Farmers Market will return to the fairgrounds parking location in Fairlea for the rest of the season.
Mary Surbaugh, manager of the market, said the next highly anticipated crop is sweet corn. Of course, the regular vendors will continue to bring in their produce and crafts.
Recently, Williamsburg artisan Eddie Fletcher brought his handcrafted wooden spatulas and spoons, and other small items, which were a big hit with the Great Eastern Area Rally of motor home travelers camped out for the week beside the farmers market space.
The Courthouse Farmers Market has been located at the fairgrounds parking in Fairlea for a few years, since they lost their original location at the Greenbrier County Courthouse. They still go by that name and the organization is larger than it has ever been.
As many as 30 vendors set up selling everything from crafts to fresh vegetables, fruits and meats.
Fresh flowers are also a regular item and there are several vendors offering these including West Farm and Leggacy Farm.
Farmers Markets in the area do give some gardeners and some full-fledged farms a venue to sell their made products to consumers directly. There are a few that seriously operate their income making activities solely through Farmers markets and flea markets. Three selling days a week is a serious undertaking, and to do that they must haul their product to three different places.
The current farmers markets in Greenbrier County are Courthouse Farmers Market (Saturdays 8 a.m.-12 p.m.), Renick Farmer Market (Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m.), Western Greenbrier in Rainelle (Fridays from 3:30-6 p.m.), White Sulphur Springs (Thursdays from 3-6 p.m.), and Alderson (Tuesdays from 3-6 p.m.). Frankford has Cowboy Jim’s produce stand, across from Dollar General, on Saturdays.
Some of the area markets have developed extra programs to attract families.
In Alderson there is The Carrot Club, through the SNAP EBT program for kids where they can learn and earn Carrot Bucks to spend at the vendors tables during the market.
The Western Greenbrier market has SNAP/Stretch for adults, seniors and children supported by the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition and operates through the EBT card system.
According to Carol Legg of Leggacy Farms, farmers markets represent “a co-op of farmers that becomes a co-operation between vendors.” She has enjoyed her participation at Courthouse Farmers Market and appreciates the Surbaugh’s management.
But she admits it can be challenging when things “crazy thunderstorms and even snow on Mother’s Day” happen.
Legg says placement of the vendors is crucial to develop the customer flow through the market.
“The fresh fruits, vegetable and flower folks are placed where the sun shines behind their tents, allowing for a cooler display of their products,” she says.
Legg says that her fresh flowers are at one end and West Farm’s Pam West’s are at another so that each stand complements the full market without shoulder-to-shoulder competition between two fresh flower stands.
Peggy Lewis raises multiple gardens every year. She says the harvest is as unpredictable as the weather, and she takes her excess to the farmers market in Renick, where she also sells soaps and baked goods.
Other farmers in the area have diversified their product lines because the intensity of the garden is in the plow/plant and then the harvest/sell weeks. There is time to produce some products throughout the year to add to the table at the farmers market. That is why you will find soaps, lotions and candles as well as bakery items at most of the markets these days.
The shoppers become weekly attendees at some of these markets, and the vendors learn to talk about their goods and deliver products their regular customers are interested in.
This does change the market product line from year to year and even month to month. So, there are always changes and interesting new introductions.
Rainbow Farms from Sandstone has really changed over the years. They’re still a solid vendor at Courthouse Farmers Market but now they have three commercial customers who seriously support their sales numbers.
Pasture raised chickens are their main product now; they used to do goats and vegetables, but the goats were problematic at the farm and Rainbow Farms’ Lauren Brenner says, “there are lots of vegetable vendors.”
That is how the market drives the retail production in business – there is no point in competing when you can offer something unique and fill a need. For gardeners and farmers like Lewis, there is a developing standing clientele list as well.
People will find you and they will come back if you have a product they like.
Lewis says,” I can never grow enough beans. All I harvest flies out in large quantities to my returning annual customers.”
Of course, she could always grow more. She has a large cattle farm with plenty of space for garden expansion. But she says there is a limit to how much garden she will plant.
“Three gardens is about all I can handle. I am just one woman with a husband who is willing to plow or mow,” she says
The farmers markets are all outdoor operations and during the summer, and that is just perfect aside from an occasional weather disaster. Even in summer the sun can be brutally hot, or it can rain. And braving the weather can be a customer’s opportunity to feel the farm-i-ness that each vendor lives, a life of weather influenced ups and downs…always working for a bountiful harvest.
|Peggy Lewis and the smaller one of two or three vegetable gardens she grows every year. She sells this year at Renick Farmers Market.|
|Peggy Lewis surrounds her historic home with her gardens full of flowers and vegetables.|
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