If you through Warwood on a Tuesday afternoon, you might notice a gathering of canopies, food trucks and people. The green signs waving in the wind announce Farmers Market Open; however, in Warwood, a farmers market is so much more than just tomatoes and potatoes.

Warwood Farmers Market started back in June 2017, and much like the produce that is sold there, it grew in a short amount of time. Starting with only five vendors in its inaugural year, the Warwood Farmers Market currently welcomes between 20-30 vendors each week with fresh local produce, baked goods, eggs, chicken, cheese, jams and more.

One of the areas in which Warwood Farmers Market differs from other farmers markets is artisan crafts. One-stop-shopping at the farmers market will yield your weekly food essentials as well as gifts — baskets, pottery, wooden signs, jewelry, crocheted items, essential oils, decorative ornaments, paintings and more.

NATIONAL FARMERS MARKET WEEK

Last month, Wheeling City Council proclaimed the week of Aug. 4-11 as Warwood Farmers Market Week to coincide with National Farmers Market Week. This marked a weeklong celebration of the history and power of the Warwood Farmers Market in the Warwood community,

Wheeling City Council proclaims Warwood Farmers Market Week.

MORE THAN SHOPPING

The selection of items on display at the market may seem typical of many farmers markets, but there is so much more going on than just great local items for sale.

Every week, the sponsoring organization, Grow Warwood Pride, offers a family-friendly theme, activities, drawings, giveaways, special guests and more. The themes range from educational, such as Multicultural Language Day coming up Sept. 10, or Space Day, Sept. 24. There’s also just plain fun days, such as a day for dogs, held last month, or Superhero Day 2: The Sequel, set for Sept. 17.

A host of volunteers come out each week to teach a lesson, make crafts, showcase a special-abilities dog, or dress up and entertain the kids.

Fun with food at Warwood Farmers Market.

One might think that is what makes Warwood Farmers Market unique, which it does. But it is not the only thing that makes us unique.

ALL ABOUT COMMUNITY

The Farmers Market is a community, in every sense of the word. The vendors are local and, in many cases, neighbors. Patrons are members of the community who support these vendors, knowing the value that farmers markets bring to the community.

Studies have shown that local vendors from farmers markets stimulate the local economy by returning the money to the local economy at a rate more than three times that of chain retailers. Meanwhile, the U.S. loses an acre of farmland to development every minute, so continuing to buy local ensures that local farmers will be around for years to come.

One may believe that this is where the benefit of frequenting the Warwood Farmers Market ends, but there is far more, and arguably greater benefit, than just economic impact.

Farmers markets on the whole increase access to fresh food; Warwood Farmers Market participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) stretch program, which doubles or in some cases triples SNAP benefits. Markets like Warwood bring fresh food to the families who need it the most.

“Farmers markets play a vital role not just in generating real income for farmers, but in forming a healthy, prosperous food systems,” says Jen Cheek, program director of the Farmers Market Coalition. “By providing the opportunity for farmers to connect directly with consumers, markets serve as education centers. Vendors are teaching customers about agriculture and sharing recipes and new foods with their neighbors. Markets are making people and communities stronger and healthier.“

HEALTHY CHOICES

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, Warwood Farmers Market supports healthy communities. People who shop at a farmers market on average benefit from 10-15 times more social interaction than a retail chain store. With all the wonders of a digitally-connected world, many often suffer from loneliness and depression despite being “linked in” at all times. Facetime won’t ever take the place of face-to-face time, and one who shops at Warwood Farmers Market is sure to get his or her fair share of handshakes, cute dogs and adorable kids along with their weekly market bag full of fresh, local food.

For example, the market was blessed to have 92-year-old Bill Allison visit from Gilbert, Arizona, earlier in the season while visiting the market with his goddaughter, Debbie Lucci-Murry from Martins Ferry, Ohio.

We first met Bill when he was trying to crouch into a picture opportunity for kids. Needing some help, volunteers hoisted the sign, so he didn’t need to crouch — capturing the essence of what our market is all about: welcoming. Bill enjoyed his time in the same manner as the 8-year-old who stuck his head through that hole just moments before.

Later, Bill was spotted observing an activity where kids were making volcanos that erupted, and his face lit up with the same excitement for the kids enjoying the volcanoes as the kids’ enjoyment themselves. It was touching to see the matched level of interest from Bill and proof that some things can be shared regardless of age.

Bill Allison, center, poses for a souvenir picture. Bill’s family moved to Belfast, North Ireland, after the 1936 flood destroyed their Benwood home. His parents sent him and his twin brother back to the U.S. when they turned 18 to reclaim their citizenship — they stayed with their Aunt Sadie and Uncle Henry Forsythe on Hess Avenue. Bill eventually married, had three children and moved to California. This was his first trip back to the Wheeling area in many years, and he was delighted by the level of community at Garden Park, a park he played in decades ago.

Warwood Farmers Market brings people together from all over to experience our best resource: our people. Through the interactions in the market, we’ve met some great people from the Warwood area and beyond. We’ve brought together families, neighbors, co-workers and strangers and given them a place to find common ground — an area devoid of politics or the negativity that circulates around us daily.

We’ve given farmers and artisan crafters, in all cases people who have a passion for their product, a place to be successful while giving residents a place to socialize and be entertained in Warwood. Moreover, we’ve given people from outside the Warwood area a new reason to come check out Warwood, and many like what they see.

Warwood Farmers Market is still very much a hidden gem, tucked away in the Warwood community but becoming a more known commodity week after week.

BEFORE THE SEASON ENDS

Support local, support community and join our community every Tuesday until Sept. 24. Good food, good products, good people and good fun — come see why I love my farmers market and why farmers markets matter.

• Sept. 10 — Multicultural Day: Learn world languages, including American Sign Language, while shopping with multicultural food ideas and recipes.

• Sept. 17 —Super Hero Day 2: The Sequel/Dance Party Night: Come down and hang out with all your favorite superheroes, play games and participate in our Warwood Flash Mob Dance Party at 5:30 p.m. Dance to your favorites including the Electric Slide, Cupid Shuffle and the new craze, The Git Up.

Superhero Day at the Warwood Farmers Market

• Sept. 24 — Space Day: Blast off for a good time at the market while we build rockets and talk about the great beyond.

Follow the Warwood Farmers Market on Facebook and Instagram and get more information at www.warwoodfarmersmarket.com.

Matt Rafa s a pharmacist serving the Warwood community for six years. He is the employed pharmacy director for the West Virginia Pharmacy Association, vice president of the Warwood Lions Club, a founder of Grow Warwood Pride, market chair of the Warwood Farmers Market and vice president of programs for the Boy Scouts Ohio River Valley Council. He has served each of these organizations for a combined 17 years.



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