SHEPHERDSTOWN – Residents who visit Morgan’s Grove Market when the season kicks off Saturday will find new offerings aimed at making it easier to pursue a healthy lifestyle.
The market, Shepherdstown’s Saturday hub for local growers, bakers, artisans and crafters since 2011, is expanding into a year-round agricultural campus and healthy living collaborative that will offer the community an array of health-care and fitness options in addition to easy access to nutritious, locally grown food.
Peter Corum, one of the managing members of the market, said MGM’s mission includes altering the way people in the community think about food and health care.
“We’re trying to help people change their habits and slowly move to a healthier lifestyle,” he explained. “We want affordable, healthy, tasty food that’s accessible to all, and that leads back to the capacity issue – you need volume to make things affordable.”
Many in Jefferson County now travel to shop at the Common Market Co-op, the community-owned, locally focused grocery store in Frederick, Md. “The goal is to create a mini-Common Market,” Corum said.
As part of the MGM expansion, a series of buildings will be constructed at 3988 Kearneysville Pike. The market owns 13 acres next to Morgan’s Grove Park.
Corum said a building housing a commercial kitchen and storage for the market’s new food club and online ordering system will be open by August.
The market’s new campus will eventually feature a homegrown/homemade store, a hardware and garden center, a private school, a fitness facility and spaces for local retailers, restaurants and health-care providers, Corum said.
“We’re banking on our homegrown/homemade store being one of the most unique places in the county,” he said. “There’ll be things like salad dressings, jams, ice cream, cheese – all made locally.”
The market also is expanding beyond Saturday hours. Starting in mid-May, the market will open from 3 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and then when the new building is complete, six days a week.
The Tuesday market will be a bit different than Saturday, with vendors able to drop off their goods to be sold “in a more traditional retail setting,” Corum said. Customers will be able to pick up online orders each Tuesday as well.
On the health-care side of the market’s plans, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a family physician and professor of family medicine at West Virginia University who’s helping to coordinate the Morgan’s Grove Market Healthy Living Collaborative, said the goal is to bring in primary medical providers, dentists, physical therapists, alternative therapists, holistic doctors, yoga practitioners and more.
“Each person will be able to find something to embrace,” he said. “If they have a specific need, they will able to find something to help them.”
Cucuzzella said educating people about nutrition is a key goal of the Healthy Living Collaborative. “Show the average West Virginian male a head of kale, and he won’t have a clue what to do with it,” he said. “But if we show him what to do, maybe have him taste it, maybe he’ll be inclined to try it and start eating better.”
Cucuzzella said that 90 percent of the illnesses he deals with every day are preventable and most are reversible with lifestyle change. “Nutrition, as well as relaxation and outdoor activity, are key components,” he said.
Nutrition is the foundation. “You can’t exercise away a bad diet,” said Cucuzzella, who is a marathoner and the founder of Freedom’s Run, the autumn running competition that is West Virginia’s largest such event.
Cucuzzella said market organizers are working on ways to connect local farmers with the entire population of the Eastern Panhandle, especially those with the highest need such as low-income families, seniors and veterans.
Plans are in motion for the maket to accept SNAP and WIC benefits, as well as for a fruit and vegetable prescription plan that will allow physicians to get coupons through federal programs to give out to people with specific illnesses.
“It’s a ‘farmacy’ rather than a traditional pharmacy,” Cucuzzella said.
In addition to providing access to local food and health-care resources, Corum said the market serves as an economic development tool for small businesses.
“It’s an incubator that will allow entrepreneurs to test out their ideas with no barriers to entry,” he said.
Corum’s vision is for people with ideas to be able to secure funding from sources such as local banks, the Panhandle Entrepreneurs’ Cafe, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency’s and Kiva Zip, a project launched by Kiva.org that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs get loans that are crowdfunded by online lenders.
Vendors also can seek support from family, friends, angel investors and even other vendors, Corum added.
“We’re all kind of in this together,” he said.
Jodi Jones and her husband, Ryan Jones, of Keedysville, Md., are hoping to source some of the ingredients they need for their homemade kombucha – a fermented tea – and sauerkraut from other vendors at the market. The couple is debuting their business, The Cultured Leaf, at Morgan’s Grove Market this year.
“It’s really nice to see everyone come together,” Jodi Jones said. “The grassroots movement is getting stronger and it’s exciting.”
Want to go?
What: Morgan’s Grove Market season opener
When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: 3988 Kearneysville Pike, Shepherdstown
To know more: Go to facebook.com/morgansgrovemarket