Saturday, May 26, marks the opening of Smart Markets Springfield, the latest in Northern Virginia's farmer's markets.
Smart Markets Springfield will operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at American Legion Post 176 at 6520 Amherst Avenue. The market will be open weekly through the end of October. Check out our website for the full list of vendors who will greet you on opening day.
So how did Smart Markets get started? Many years ago, when I was a volunteer market manager for the Fairfax County farmers markets, I wrote a little column for a local newspaper each week from my kitchen.
I’ve come a long a way since then. I now manage six markets. I now operate under a corporate umbrella called Smart Markets, Inc., and I am pretty much responsible for the livelihoods of about 50 vendors.
I take that responsibility very seriously, and that’s why I am going to be writing for Patch about farmers’ markets in general, especially those in Virginia — our markets in particular, but also our vendors, who represent a true cross-section of the network of small farmers and small food entrepreneurs. I will do just about anything to spread the word.
We provide our farmers with the retail outlets they must have to survive; their farms are too small to support them on wholesale prices alone. Even the family farm with lots of kids and cousins in the field cannot afford to settle for the same wholesale prices that are paid by middlemen to Chinese and South American farm conglomerates.
We are also here to nurture the small food entrepreneurs who start in their homes, move on to rented kitchens and then sometimes soar right on out of the markets. That’s what an incubator does — providing time in a caring and fortifying environment until the business is ready to stand on its own and compete in the larger retail marketplace. Some of our vendors will never do that and do not aspire to do that, but for them we can continue to provide that retail outlet which includes marketing advice and other support services.
I hope to introduce you to markets in your community and help you understand the contribution you can make to your local environment, your local economy and your own family’s health by taking the road less traveled once a week to buy local and learn to know your farmer — and your salsa maker, your baker and many more great cooks. And also to be reminded of what good food and food that is good for you still tastes like.
For me, it’s even more fun than it used to be, though I seem to be spending more time at that dining room table and less at the markets. But I usually put in an appearance at most of them each week. Hope to see you there!