CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Leanne Dubois, Virginia Grown program manager, speaks to those interested in growing a farmer’s market in downtown Hopewell.
HOPEWELL — The Hopewell Downtown Partnership is looking to continue growing the mission of having a farmer’s market in the city. After getting the idea rooted in the community and having word spread on the concept, an informational meeting was held to start planning and getting the concept off the ground.
Leanne Dubois, the program manager for Virginia Grown, spoke to a group of interested vendors, volunteers and members of the Hopewell Downtown Partnership on April 3 at the John Randolph Foundation. She spoke on how to plan for a farmer’s market and the seeds for success.
“We’ve been in a society of the big box stores and everybody’s on their computer and it’s just refreshing to come back out to Main Streets,” Dubois said of the shift to small business and the growth in farmer’s markets.
According to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 1,755 farmer’s markets were reported in 1984 and by 2013, that number had grown to 8,144.
Dubois spoke on preparations for those interested parties to make before opening. She said the partnership can hold a “soft” opening in the summer months.
“You could do mini satellite markets around town as promotions ... until you get established as a promotion thing,” she said.
Another important element for success, Dubois said, was to establish what was going to be sold at the market. She said this is accomplished by building a vendor base.
Rose Baker, of Dinwiddie, was one of the first potential vendors to speak at the meeting and stressed the need for a market manager, essentially someone in charge of all the vendors at the market.
“You have five vendors selling sweet basil,” Baker said. “Honestly nobody could possibly buy that much sweet basil in the course of the summer and what happens is you have people that won’t go back to those markets.”
The conversation in the group also included other activities that would be included in the farmer’s market, such a canning class and given the long standing history in Hopewell, potential demonstrations of blacksmithing and the like.
Another large part of the discussion centered around getting the youth involved in the farmer’s market, not only for community involvement but for education on nutrition.
Katina Moss, teacher at Hopewell High School and with the FBLA, said many of her students are interested in the growing concept and she also said many do not know healthy eating habits, though eager to learn.
In the weeks before the meeting, Evan Kaufman, director of the Hopewell Downtown Partnership, said a farmer’s market will allow the community to have access to fresh, healthy food choices.
“Part of the Hopewell Downtown Partnership’s mission is creating a healthy, vibrant and prosperous downtown district,” Kaufman said. “Healthy being a key word and that includes the health of residents. From nutrition to exercise to community engagement and social interaction and essentially what that all boils down to is a higher quality of life for the community. The healthier we are in, every aspect of that will create a better quality of life, which is the ultimate goal of the Downtown Partnership.”
Rose Baker, of Dinwiddie, a potential vendor of the future farmer’s market in downtown Hopewell speaks on her experience at other farmer’s markets in the area and the need for one in Hopewell.
Other topics discussed were what day to hold the farmer’s market in the city, how to begin advertising the upcoming market and how to begin the plan for establishing the market, which according to Dubois, needs by-laws, a market manager and even insurance, as well as requirements that have to be met by the USDA standards.
After the meeting, Dubois seemed pleased with the discussion among those in attendance. She said this is how all farmer’s markets get rooted in the community, with a meeting of the minds.
“This is how it starts with a room full of very interested people,” Dubois said. “People from the country government to vendors just all sharing the same space today.”
Baker, of the interested vendors who sells “herbs, flowers and more,” has been vending at the Petersburg market for a while and is ready to see Hopewell get a farmer’s market.
“I’ve been doing Petersburg for a long time and last year got pretty rotten,” Baker said. “You have five vendors, or more, that came up and sold the same thing over and over and over. What happens is you lose the people that have been there for years. Of all the places that needs a farmer’s market, Hopewell does.”
Given what Hopewell has to offer, such as water access and a hospital located blocks from Downtown Hopewell, Dubois sees success with the market in the city.
“You have a downtown with some neat architectural features. There seems to be a lot of interest in revitalization,” Dubois said. “I think the fact you have a hospital nearby, we’ve seen a real trend in hospitals getting involved with preventative care incentives. ... You have all the elements for success I think.”
For more information on local farmer’s markets available and more resources about farmer’s markets, visit http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/vagrown/.