Va. begins a week of celebrating farmers markets

DALE CITY, Va. – It’s part of our economy that is doing well in spite of tough economic times – farmers markets.

Dramatic growth can be seen in Virginia, where market popularity shot up more than 160% in the past seven years. In 2006, there were 88 markets in the state but this year there are 230, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Governor Bob McDonnell is celebrating the uptick in popularity of the markets by declaring this week Virginia Farmers Market Week across the state.

Apparently, the mantra “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” we’ve been hearing for several years, is really catching on.

Margret Pulzone, manager of Dale City Farmers Market, says customers “want it fresh and they want to know that it’s coming from their local community.” She says everything at the market comes from within a 100-mile radius.

Sunday morning’s beautiful weather was a great excuse to enjoy a trip to the market; the Dale City market was packed. “Busiest I’ve ever seen it here,” says Mary Brier from Woodbridge.

Her 11-year old daughter, Kate, asked if they could go to the market after church. “And so we’re here,” says Brier.

She wasn’t at all surprised to find out that there’s been a surge in popularity of farmers markets. She says, last week at the market I got the sweetest watermelon I’ve had in years.”

But Stefani Sellers, who was at the Dale City market with her eight kids and husband, was surprised. She says, “I guess people are starting to realize they want to eat healthier foods and probably stuff that comes from farmers that don’t use pesticides.”

Pulzone, who’s been with the Dale City Farmers Market for 10 years, says she’s seen the increase in business first-hand. And she says it gets busier each week. “Last week when the market was closing at 1 p.m.,” she says, “there were still 100 to 150 customers.”

Percy Johnson loves coming to the market and supporting the local community and the farmers, and he says there’s an added benefit: “In turn, (farmers) make bodies healthy,” he says.

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