Fresh & Local
The 2012 Culpeper Farmers’ Market
Column #30, Published April 13th, 2012
There is currently a food revolution going on. Locally grown food is making permanent inroads into the food we eat, and the way we think about food.
In previous columns, I have written about all the different distribution channels for locally grown food, but farmers’ markets are undoubtedly the distribution channel people most closely associate with locally grown food.
The biggest and oldest of the local farmers’ markets is the Culpeper Farmers’ Market. It is held on Saturday mornings from 7:30am to noon at the corner of East Davis and Commerce Streets. This year, the markets begin on April 28 and will run until November 17.
A couple of years ago, extension agent Carl Stafford wrote a newspaper article about the history of the Culpeper Farmers’ Market. According to Carl, the market was started out at the Culpeper Agricultural Enterprises in the late 1950’s by Raymond Kite. That would make this market over 50 years old.
The Culpeper Farmers’ Market is somewhat unusual because of who runs it. For the last ten years or so, the market has been run by Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. (CRI) What is Culpeper Renaissance, and why do they run a farmers’ market? The answers are kind of an interesting, so allow me to explain.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation was created by Congressional legislation and signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1949. About 30 years ago, the Trust came to believe that prosperous, sustainable communities are only as healthy as their cores, so they created the Main Street program to help communities with the revitalization and management of their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. If you are interested in knowing more about the national Main Street program, you can go out to their web site: www.mainstreet.org.
Many states - including Virginia – created their own Main Street programs. The Virginia program is run by Department of Housing and Community Development. The Virginia Main Street web site says,
Main Street is a comprehensive, incremental approach to revitalization built around a community’s unique heritage and attributes. Using local resources and initiatives, Main Street helps communities develop their own strategies to stimulate long term economic growth and pride in the traditional community center -- downtown.
Getting back to the questions, Culpeper Renaissance is a non-profit corporation that participates in both the national and Virginia Main Street programs. Their principal concern is the health of downtown, and they run the Culpeper Farmers’ Market because it generates a whole lot of foot traffic and economic activity in downtown Culpeper.
In addition to organizing the vendors and processing applications, CRI also hires a manager called the market master. There will be more on the market master in a future column.
I talked to CRI’s Missy Vesuna, and she told me that they have 40 vendors signed up this year, which is the capacity of the current location.
I also asked about their definition of the word “local.” The vendor agreements define “local” as being within 75 miles. Everything sold at the market is supposed to be grown within 75 miles. In addition, at least 80% of what a vendor sells is supposed to be grown by the vendor. Up to 20% of what a vendor sells can be from someone else as long as it was grown within 75 miles.
Be sure to mark April 28th on your calendar.
Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com