Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I visited West Virginia and got inspired!

I got to visit the Charles Town Farmers Market this month while visiting family with my husband. There is nothing I love more than scoping out farmers markets in new places, especially markets in small but lovely downtown's. I know many small towns start their markets to bring in much needed foot traffic to brick and mortar stores on weekends, and I suspect that might also be the case with the Charles Town market.

I will admit I may be the most annoying person to visit a farmers market with, or at least be high in the running for that title. I have to look at everything, exclaim over it, attempt to make a dad joke with each farmer, and definitely need to talk to the market manager. I know that West Virginia has an excellent statewide farmers market association and I was excited to see the market's info table was piled high with information on the SNAP matching grant they have going, which seems to be funded by FINI.

The real excitement for me was when I noticed their kids programming; Charles Town Market Explorers! Guys. Ladies. Folks. It was adorable! I asked the market information booth about it and apparently this programming is led by a volunteer! Amazing! It takes place once a month, and the leader takes the kids around to certain vendors and at each one they either ask questions about food, farming or health or do a fitness activity. The sessions are run twice and last about 30 minutes each. I got to watch as a group of about 15 kids went around the market and heard about growing hydroponic lettuce and did jumping jacks with farmers. The leader of the group was great- enthusiastic and engaging, and the farmers seemed happy to speak to the group to share their wisdom. I really admired the program for it's simple, engaging style and how it worked in both food knowledge and simple activity. Go Charles Town! I loved it!

Youth activities at farmers markets are great for a variety of reasons- they mold the next generation of educated consumers and producers, they make your market a family destination, and if you design them right they keep family shoppers in your market for more than just a quick shopping trip. The Farmers Market Coalition's POP Club is probably the most famous of the farmers market kid programming world, but I would love to see examples from all over! Do you know of one? Let me know in the comments!

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