Farming the market
Charlottesville staple provides more than fresh produce
Students flock to the Charlottesville City Market each weekend for the numerous stands selling locally made products and the atmosphere only farmers’ markets provide. Every Saturday morning, the parking lot at the intersection of Second Street and Water Street transforms into an oasis of local, fresh food and other crafty vendors.
Open from 7 a.m. to noon, the market runs from April to December. It has been a Charlottesville staple since it opened in 1973. Visiting the City Market even made the Class of 2013’s list of 113 things to do before you graduate.
Students go to the market to see the array of foods that may not be offered in dining halls or regular grocery stores. There they can find options such as free-range poultry and eggs, grass-fed beef, locally grown and organic produce and other homemade products. Fourth-year College student Camilla Nawaz, who does not eat gluten, praised the market’s gluten-free bakeries.
The City Market has always been a community favorite, but recently the market has been reaching out to a younger crowd to promote its products. Kathy Kildea, the program coordinator for Market Central, the non-profit organization that promotes the Charlottesville City Market, said the organization is trying to bring new customers to the market.
“We have been community partners for Jefferson Public Citizens for last year and this year, so as their community partner we’re helping to bring [programs] in,” Kildea said.
Market Central also orchestrates events such as farm tours and canning tutorials that students can attend.
“It’s wonderful to have them excited about being here and kind of getting their foot in the door for appreciating what’s local and seasonal,” Kildea explained.
Students may not be the ideal customers, however, as Kildea said she does not see many students buy large amounts of fresh produce. Her advice: Stay aware of what fruits and vegetables are in season.
“There are a lot of resources online for people to understand what’s in season at the time,” Kildea said. “And enjoying things at the peak of their season when they’re at their most flavorful and most fresh is when people develop the most appreciation.”
The University’s involvement with the City Market is not limited to student patronage. Many students are realizing there are even more opportunities to get involved in local produce and farmers’ markets through working with local vendors.
Charlottesville chef Crissanne Raymond, the creator of NoBull Burger, a gourmet veggie burger offered at Bodo’s Bagels, The Nook and other Charlottesville locations, said students at the Darden School studied NoBull Burger’s business after hearing about it.
University students have also found opportunities to get their hands dirty. Several University students work at Joel Slezak’s farm in Free Union, Va. Slezak specializes in pastured chicken and duck and grass-fed beef — one student even bikes the 12 miles to get there.
Despite efforts by City Market organizers to reach out to new partners, ultimately student involvement arises organically. Local-food initiatives may attract fresh blood, but it’s the fresh food that keeps people coming back.