Growing season for farmers market

Published 2:29 pm Thursday, August 13, 2015

It’s a beautiful Saturday. Vendors are aligned under the covered area of Farmville’s Community Marketplace on North Street. Here, one can buy grass-fed beef, earrings, signs, squash and tomatoes.

And enjoy a little bit of friendly conversation in the process.

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There are some 14 vendors that are regulars at the market, though others join in. Harry Marshall Sr. comes from Amelia with his mini-freezer to sell grass-and-grain fed beef. Rhoda Cooper is selling cards to help support a horse rescue in Cumberland. Eleven-year-old Caroline Hanks, with mom Christine, is selling cantaloupes she helped to raise and earrings she has crafted.

It is true that everyone has a story to tell, and the market is a great place to pick up a watermelon or peruse the tables and share some conversation.

Jason Kincaid, who recycles motorcycle parts into such crafty things as chandeliers and furniture, is a jack all trades. He is here with fiancé Nicki Richardson and their collection on display includes creative uses for such common things as old phones. Kincaid was here last fall when the number of sellers dwindled down to a handful, stuck with it this year and is even expanding his offerings.

“Well, I can afford it,” Cooper said of coming to the Farmville market. “And the people here are really, really nice. It’s like a family.”

It costs vendors $5 per Saturday; season rates are pretty cheap, too.

The market, Cooper assesses, “seems like it draws different people from different counties around.”

Cooper just started the business at the end of April, though she has been making cards for years. All of her cards are handmade. Some weeks, she says, are better for business than others.

“I also run a riding stable,” Cooper said. “And I do rescue horses, so a lot of my income from cards goes to help my rescue in Cumberland.”

She has 80 horses there.

Cristine Voitko, of Farmville, sells hand-painted signs. Business, she said is “pretty good,” adding “it comes and goes.”

Such is the case for most businesses.

“This is primarily a food market, though,” Voitko said. “I would say that the food vendors sell, I think, a whole lot better than I do.” She chuckles, before adding, “And rightfully so. It’s a farmer’s market.  Farmers don’t grow signs.”

Her most popular item is custom orders.

“This is a family thing. It’s exciting…Everybody is friendly, people are enjoying visiting back and forth,” Councilwoman Sally Thompson said. It is “the best we’ve ever had it,” she says adding that Market Manager Rodney Lewis “has done a fantastic job.”

John Hind, standing amidst a collection of potted trees and shrubs, plainly offers that Lewis is the reason he was drawn to the market. “He keeps everything going … he’s friendly to everybody,” he said.

Hind has his own nursery in Keysville, starting everything by cutting or seed.

Burning bushes and crepe myrtle are among the most popular things he sells.

Marshall, who grew up on Jamestown Road in Cumberland, retired from military/civil service some 28 years ago. Today, he lives in Amelia and he and two partners share in raising a small herd of cattle (a total of 13) free, he says, of antibiotics and hormones.

Farming was a way of staying active, plus Marshall hopes, a way to make a little money.

He has been bringing meats here since May.

“Well, I found out that not that many people come in mind to this market to buy beef,” he concedes. “But the good part is I’m having a number of repeat buyers and we get excellent compliments on the taste of the beef.”

Caroline, with her table at the rear of the market is here with friend Kristin Sheffield. She has made earrings to sell and a collection of golden cantaloupes she helped grow. Caroline, who finds time to play softball on a travel team, is a sixth grade Fuqua School student from Lunenburg with designs on becoming a math teacher.

She has taught herself how to knit (she makes scarves) and helps makes decorative wreaths, which are also sold. Christine says her daughter sets her own prices, marks down things that aren’t selling as well, and keeps her own books.

“I’m proud of her. I’m proud of her having the initiative to do this,” her mom says.

Her daughter saves her money, of course.

Farmville’s Town Manager Gerald Spates is pleased with the direction of the market. Lewis, he said has done an “excellent job” since taking over the market, adding that he hears a lot of positive comments. Spates also pointed out it’s Lewis’ first season, adding that he’s looking for bigger and better things next year.

Spates adds that they’re open to anyone who wants to be a member of their market.

(Individuals wishing to secure a space should contact the town treasurer’s office. Market hours are Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1  p.m.)