Celebrating National Farmers Market Week

On Tuesday, Aug. 8, at West End Farmers Market (1027 Patterson Ave. SW), and on Saturday, Aug. 12, at Grandin Village Farmers Market (in the parking lot behind the Roanoke Co+op), Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) will highlight the importance of farmers markets, alongside communities across the nation.

National Farmers Market Week is an annual celebration of farmers markets proclaimed by the US Department of Agriculture and coordinated by the Farmers Market Coalition, a membership-based nonprofit organization that supports farmers markets nationwide. This year, the campaign is centered around the essential role that farmers markets play, both in our local food systems and in our communities. For more than 50 years, farmers markets have influenced the way Americans eat, shop, and connect to food, farmers, and one another. Farmers markets are more than market places, they are places where neighbors learn, grow, and work together.

Farmers markets are increasingly diverse, serving a wide range of customers. LEAP’s market managers have prioritized the creation of spaces where all feel welcome, utilizing a wide range of incentive programs to make fresh local food affordable for everyone.

“I think food unites us all,” says LEAP’s Food Access Manager Connie Kenny. “Farmers markets are a way we can all come together.” When Kenny recognizes shoppers as new to the market, she will walk them from table to table, introducing them to farmers and vendors so they feel comfortable. “It’s all about meeting people where they are,” she says.

LEAP operates two farmers markets. West End Farmers Market runs every Tuesday, year round, in the grass beside the recently opened LEAP Hub, from 3 to 6 pm. Grandin Village Farmers Market runs every Saturday from April through November, from 8 am to noon. The Grandin market will be held on the first and third Saturdays of each month from December through March in 2023 and 2024.

On Tuesday, Aug. 8, LEAP will celebrate National Farmers Market Week with a diverse selection of vendors who will pop up tents to serve customers some of the best produce of the season. Farms such as Fields Edge Farm and Rivenwood Gardens from Floyd and Garden Variety Harvests from Roanoke sell heirloom tomatoes, prized local peppers, eggplants, onions, lettuces, greens, beets, carrots, green beans, and more. Fruit vendor Monkey Business offers peaches, nectarines, and apples. Bakers Blacksburg Bagels carry loaves of bread, bagels, pita bread, croissants, and more.

On Aug. 8 at West End Farmers Market, LEAP will be giving away $5 to any child (ages 2-17) to purchase fruits and vegetables from market vendors. This program is funded by a grant from Molina Cares. Local musician Jason Long will create a festive atmosphere with his guitar covers. And LEAP Kitchen Manager Jeff Bland will be giving away snow cones made with local fruit syrup.

On Saturday, Aug. 12, Grandin Village Farmers Market is hosting Pepper Palooza, featuring its first-ever Face on Fire pepper-eating contest (not for the weak of stomach!). Up to 30 contestants will taste five peppers each, increasing in spiciness. Prizes will be awarded to those who survive the heat. Pre-registration is required. Also at Pepper Palooza, market-goers will find a pepper-tasting tent, vendors with special pepper offerings (hot honey, anyone?), and fermentation sets for sale by Grandin market vendor and contest co-host Fermented Fire Hot Sauce Company.

The fun continues through the month of August at West End Farmers Market, where each Tuesday pop-up vendors and kids activities will attract customers, along with the $5 for kids to purchase fruits and vegetables. Highlights include free face painting by artist Isha Devine, free kettle corn by Two Roosters Kettle Corn, and prepared food for sale by Yard Bull Meats.

All LEAP markets accept SNAP and P-EBT and double the value of purchases made by recipients of SNAP, Medicaid, and WIC. LEAP markets also feature farmers who accept Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers of up to $50 for eligible seniors.

In 2022, LEAP supported 125 farmers and served 1,000 customers each week through the nonprofit’s farmers markets, mobile market, shared commercial kitchen, and community gardens. In 2022, LEAP provided $184,000 worth of local fruits and vegetables to customers with limited incomes.

All are invited to attend one or both LEAP market events during National Farmers Market Week and to continue celebrating West End Farmers Market’s Amazing August throughout the month. For questions, reach out to Christina Nifong, LEAP Director of Marketing and Communications via email, christina@leapforlocalfood.org or phone, 540-632-1657.

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