By Tina Alvey
Although it ranks as the region’s largest population center, attempts to establish a farmers’ market in Beckley have fizzled more than they have sizzled.
With increasing numbers of young families settling in and around the city, however, the desire for fresh, healthy food has never been greater, according to Jim Monroe, who with his wife owns Greenbrier Nurseries, a horticultural company based in Summers County, with garden centers in Beckley and Roanoke, Va.
“Young mothers, especially, want to feed their kids better,” Monroe says. “But Beckley is not in an agrarian area with the right logistics to support a farmers’ market.”
For that reason, Monroe recently reached out to growers throughout Raleigh and neighboring counties with the idea of establishing a Farm-to-Table Market at Greenbrier Nurseries’ Beckley location at 225 Pinewood Drive.
When the market opens Friday, it will boast locally-produced food coming from 21 vendors, including Swift Level Farm in Greenbrier County, Monroe County’s Morgan Orchard, Instant Karma Cupcakes — a Raleigh County company — and West Virginia Homegrown Farm in Fayette County.
Products expected to be represented at the market over the next few weeks include grass-fed aged Angus beef, heritage pork and bacon, open-range chickens, fresh turkeys (just in time for Thanksgiving), canned goods like jams and jellies, baked goods, organic popcorn and an array of fresh vegetables, including Greenbrier Nurseries’ own carefully tended salad greens.
“Shopping at the market gives you a chance to meet the people that grow the food you’re feeding your family,” Monroe said. “You can talk to the vendors about how they raise their animals and their crops and be assured the food you get isn’t loaded with hormones and other chemicals, that it hasn’t been soaked in bleach. It’s a whole new way to think about food.”
Monroe also said that buying from local vendors helps the area’s economy.
“When you buy nationally produced goods, 15 cents out of every dollar stays in the local economy,” he says. “But when you buy local, 45 cents out of every dollar stays here.”
By operating the market year-round, Monroe says he is offering an outlet for the many local growers who have invested in greenhouses to produce crops even in winter.
“This gives farmers the potential for good cash-flow all year,” he says.
Vendors will be housed inside the market building until spring allows a move to an outdoor, traditional market, which will be set up in the parking lot.
Hours of operation for the Farm to Table Market will be Tuesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eventually, the market will also offer an online component, Monroe says, but first, “We want people to get back to basics and make that one-on-one contact with the farmers.”
For more information, call 304-256-5775 or visit Greenbrier Nurseries on Facebook.
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