I love our local rag, Rockingham Now. I am not uncritical of the paper, but, on the whole, I am grateful that we still have a (somewhat) local print news source.
So I was thrilled to open it up a couple of weeks ago, and see that they had done a Readers’ Choice survey to find the best that our county has to offer. It started at restaurants, then proceeded through to shopping & services, where my eyes alighted upon “Best Farmers’ Market.” Shocked I was not, but incredibly pleased. And even more thrilling was the taste of victory – our market, Market Square Farmers’ Market got voted first place. Second place was the WestRock Farmers’ Market, followed by Rockingham County Farmers’ Market, at the old Chinqua-Penn barn.
I’d like to take a moment to consider each of these in turn, if only briefly.
The group of vendors and our wonderful market manager at Market Square are what keep this place thriving and hopping with activity – we are driven by a collective goal of making the market a destination for members of the community throughout the week. We are incredibly fortunate to have the beautiful space to work in, space which has only improved with the recent addition of the quilt squares and the ongoing efforts to beautify downtown Reidsville. Also, we have a bona fide meat vendor. I can unequivocally state that the ground beef produced by Bar O Cattle is the best local beef that I have tasted since selling at the market, and very reasonably priced on top of that.
Moving on, to the WestRock Farmers’ Market – I don’t know a lot about what they’re doing over there, but it can only be good. I’d love to take a Saturday to visit over there, meet the vendors, exchange stories, pick up some local produce and artisinal goods.
Finally, there is the Rockingham County Farmers’ Market. If Market Square is the heart of Reidsville, the Rock. Co. Farmers’ Market is the soul of Wentworth. It exists in an old barn, which was/is part of Chinqua-Penn Plantation. This historical barn was refurbished thanks to the efforts made by on of my mentors, Pat Bush, and by Patricia M. and Deborah Crumpton. The restorations are done with love and craftsmanship – only under scrutiny is it evident that the original structure has been mended to counteract the ravages of time. There came a point when there was virtually one produce vendor, Jimmy, and a meat vendor, Frank. Another vendor, also named Jimmy, has taken over operation of this market. I’m pretty sure the hours are Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8-1, but I’ll have to double check.
One may ask, “why are you advertising your Market’s competition?” I would answer – “they’re not our competition.” It is a fact that each of us farmers sells slightly different produce and products, and our customers are becoming ever more sophisticated in their produce needs. Some customers don’t care – they buy the first squash they see, and that’s fine too. But, I take extra precautions to ensure that what I grow and sell is as complementary as possible to the other farmers, and not in direct competition. If I end up selling the same thing as them, I still have my niche customers who buy what I grow because they know it is chemical free and still beautiful (I will admit I was concerned about the blueberries, but they ended up selling as fast as I could pick them – I hope I did not under-sell myself). I hope to be selling at the market for a good long while. So I’ll have to find a sustainable equilibrium, without compromising my values and promises to my customers.
So, before a went off on a tangent, I was talking about the “competition.” I’m talking about the other markets because I think it is vitally important that each community has its own market for selling and buying what members of the community grow and make. And not just to be self-reliant, in case we lose a major provider of goods and employment. Rather, I truly believe that markets are a vital part of a community; they are a way to celebrate the enduring human trait of creativity, and provide a unique setting for socializing and networking, a setting which is as transient as the sun traversing the sky.
So the take-away is this: thank you for supporting your community market, wherever it may be. We, as customers, have no idea how much our presence is enjoyed and appreciated.