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The Blue & Gray Press | October 19, 2017

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Farmer’s markets gain popularity

By Katelyn Hill

On Saturdays, a range of 15 to 25 displays line the right side of the 900 block of Prince Edward Street in an upside down L shape.

The block is the host of one of 5,274 farmer’s markets across the nation, according to United States Department of Agriculture statistics, and features a variety of produce, including broccoli, apples, green beans, eggplant, pumpkin, field-grown tomatoes, summer and winter squash and cauliflower.
A small tent, which customers can walk under as they survey the available produce, covers each stand.

This is a small corner in Fredericksburg yet it is a part of a developing global phenomenon.
More than ever, customers are seeking out locally grown produce to stock their pantries.
According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, farmer’s markets can charge lower prices than supermarkets because they don not have to deal with packaging and shipping, which reduces the cost of the produce itself.

In a study conducted at Seattle University, on Capitol Hill, prices from local farmer’s markets were cheaper by the pound during peak seasons then at local supermarket. On average, the quality was better 9 out of 10 times.

The quality of the produce available on Prince Edward Street is not lost on the student demographic in the area.

“The samples are delicious, and the produce always looks great, it’s the perfect place to pick something up to cook for your girlfriend,” junior Kris Ratliff said. “Not to mention I’ve always found it cheaper than Giant and it’s just as close to campus.”

The produce sold at farmer’s markets is typically fresher than supermarket produce because vendors usually do not travel more than 50 miles away from where the produce was harvested, according to the Farmers Market Coalition.

This means that the produce hasn’t been shipped across state lines in large trucks and sat in coolers to get to its destination.

Other products available to buy at the Fredericksburg Farmer’s Market include honey, freshly made jams, flowers, cutting boards and kitchen utensils.

“The food is comparable if not better then the supermarket; it is definitely fresher,” said Tracy DeBernard, one of two owners of C and T produce, the group that runs the downtown market.

According to C and T produce’s website, Craig DeBernard, the other half of C and T produce, grew up farming and learning about vegetables.

Consumers with questions about what is in their food and where and how it is grown can speak with different vendors, such as the owners of C and T produce, to learn more about it.

Buyers can also ask questions about the best way to cook the produce and get a variety of different recipes to try.

According to the Agricultural Marketing Service, farmers markets help to promote nutrition and healthy eating education. They also help to boost the nation’s economy since the food at the farmers market is mostly locally grown.

The Fredericksburg farmer’s market is open six days a week through Thanksgiving from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

After Thanksgiving, the farmers market is open on days when the weather permits. It does not open when it rains or snows.

Additional markets are located in Stafford and Spotsylvania. More information is available on the C and T Produce website at http://candtproduce.com.