Customers speak out: How do we grow Charles Town Farmers Market?

Last year, I helped introduce a variety of successful changes to the Charles Town Farmers Market, which is held on Saturday mornings on South Samuel Street.

On Jan.8, the market held an open house and forum to gather feedback from vendors, customers and observers before the start of this year’s growing season in mid-April. Based on that, a number of changes are likely to be implemented this coming season.

For starters, the market will start holding a Wednesday “drive time” market from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Black Dog Coffee Shop at the Wiltshire Road exit off the new W.Va. 9.

Black Dog has been selling a fairly wide assortment of local products all winter, so it is a natural location to have a market where customers can pick up local produce on their way home during the week.

Another change customers can look forward to is a regular series of special events such as the very successful Dog Day of 2012. Most likely, we’ll do something special once a month throughout the season.

And though no final decision has been made, it is likely that the market season will be extended at least through Halloween.

One of the shortcomings noted by those in attendance – and something we are very aware of and working on – is the relative sparseness of produce at the beginning of the season. As we get more vendors and more vendors start using “high tunnels,” or unheated greenhouses, we expect this problem will fix itself.

In the short term, we have decided to be more explicit about what the seasons in the market are and what is most available in each one.

In order to get the word out about that, we are planning to produce a seasonal calendar that will be inserted into the local newspapers – and available for printing online – that will lay out the average season for each kind of produce, the schedule of special events, and the music and workshops for each market throughout the season. We are also hoping to have our first cooking demos in 2013!

All in all, it was a great meeting. We on the steering committee thank all those committed souls for coming out to help get as much local food as possible on Jefferson County dinner plates!

Oh, and we shouldn’t forget to thank Black Dog Coffee and Aunt Irene’s Sweet-n-Treats for supplying refreshments. They made the evening trek in mid-winter darkness more than worth it.

— Shepherd Ogden is Jefferson County’s agricultural development officer. He can be reached at 304-728-3255 or by email atshepherd.ogden@facebook.com Correspondence can be sent by mail to P.O. Box 237, Charles Town 25414

. The group’s website is jeffersonfarms.org.

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