SHEPHERDSTOWN – Peter Corum isn’t content to offer just fresh, local foods at Morgan’s Grove Market, which opens its 2012 season on Saturday.
“We’re creating an experience here – a place where people can find the foods they need and also thoroughly enjoy themselves,” he said.
Workers from Shepherdstown’s Two River Treads will oversee a mini-obstacle course and play zone for youngsters. Vendors will serve ready-to-eat breakfast items, drinks and even complete meals to take home. Each week, an artist or crafter from the Arts and Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County will show off their work. Also on the lineup: chefs to offer menu suggestions, a rotating lineup of bands and singers, outdoor Zumba classes, running clinics, a nutritionist to lend advice and more.
Feedback last year on the debut of Morgan’s Grove Market was positive, said Corum, an accountant by trade who lives in Shepherdstown with his wife, Andrea, and sons, 10-year-old Sean and 7-year-old Sam.
“This year we’re going to have at least twice the number of vendors,” he said. “It’s exciting because we’re looking at offering so much more.”
One change this year is that Corum will set up a massive tent so that individual vendors don’t have the hassle of bringing along tents for themselves. He also provides power and even coolers. “We want to make it absolutely as easy possible for vendors to be a part of this,” he said. “We want to eliminate all the barriers.”
Corum takes a similar approach with the market’s customers. For some shoppers, the challenge of keeping their young children occupied while they peruse the market might tempt them to just stay home. By offering a play area where kids can have a good time, parents can do their shopping in peace, he said.
He doesn’t see the Morgan’s Grove setup as a duplication of other markets such as the long-established one offered on Sundays behind the Shepherdstown Public Library or the expanded Charles Town Farmers Market on Saturday mornings on Samuel Street. Many in Shepherdstown, he said, visit both his market and the one downtown. Others may find a Saturday morning fits their schedules better than Sunday. He notes the Charles Town market is more convenient for many local residents.
Visits to any of the markets help Panhandle residents and visitors to the Panhandle better appreciate their good fortune to live so close to so many farms. For Panhandle vendors accustomed to selling their produce and products primarily in D.C. and other big cities in the region, Corum says more farmers markets here brings a welcome opportunity.
“Now you have those business owners can selling more of their product, both to families and to restaurants – and they aren’t spending as much on transportation. It’s the kind of growth they’re very eager for.”
Corum has a long list of ideas for expanding Morgan’s Grove, from partnering with local Future Farmers of America chapters to working with an aquaculture expert to set up “ponds” at the market stocked with farm-raised tilapia. “We’re thinking it’d be great to let kids stand there and fish,” he said. “They’ll actually catch the dinner that Mom or Dad wants to buy.”
He’d like to see the Morgan’s Grove model in other cities across the Mountain State. “There’s no reason that West Virginia shouldn’t be a national leader in this movement,” he said.
West Virginia is Corum’s adopted home state. He settled with his family in Shepherdstown as a teenager and graduated from Jefferson High in 1986.
At a time when many college graduates were fleeing West Virginia (the period known as the “Brain Drain”), Corum earned a degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and then returned here to work as a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve.
He has another full-time job, as area manager for Franklin American Mortgage Co., and originally became involved with the Morgan’s Grove site as a location for a unique residential community.
“Then the economy tanked and we had to switch gears,” he said. “The original idea was good, but what we’re doing now is so much better. There’s such potential here. This is something that stands to transform our community for the good. Who wouldn’t be excited about being a part of that?”