North Stafford is ripe for new farmers market
Vanessa Griffin says the first year of a new farmers market in Stafford County will be about survival.
She has ambitious plans to expand one day, but for now, Griffin hopes to get enough support to just keep the project running.
Griffin is behind a new market that’ll open at Stafford Hospital on June 2.
About a dozen vendors will sell their goods from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays at the Stafford Hospital Medical Pavilion.
“This is the chance to establish something that could literally last forever,” said Griffin, 28, a contractor and member of several county citizen committees.
While Dale City offers an expansive Sunday market, the new spot could be closer to home for many shoppers, with a wider selection than what can be found at individual farm stands. Stafford is also planning to renew a state permit that allows a market to run in the Staffordboro Boulevard commuter lot off Garrisonville Road.
Offerings at what Griffin is calling the North Stafford Farmers Market will likely include meat, cheese, produce, baked goods, ice cream and possibly even dog treats. Applications from vendors are now being accepted. Products must be grown within a 125-mile radius and be completely vendor-made.
Aside from connecting shoppers with where their food comes from and inspiring people to eat more fresh food, farmers markets offer a financial boost by keeping money local.
More than 100,000 people visited the region’s four markets last year, contributing about $1.5 million to the local farm and food economy, according to a 2012 end-of-year report by TheFarmers Market.co, cqwhich operates markets in Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg and King George.
Last May, the organization began a Wednesday afternoon market at the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, a model that Spotsylvania market manager Elizabeth Borst says helps link healthy food with overall physical health.
Borst, a leader in the local food movement in the area, kept an eye on market interest in Stafford, and is glad that Griffin is spearheading the project.
“She’s a real hero to step up and make this happen,” Borst said. “We see a lot of Stafford customers in Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg that are making the drive for fresh food, and they’ll really benefit from having it closer to home.”
Griffin is asking the Stafford Economic Development Authority for $10,000 for startup funds, such as advertising and marketing materials, as well as insurance and portable toilets. That meeting is set for April 12 at 1:30 p.m. in the county board chambers.
Last summer, the county set new zoning ordinances that were supposed to make it easier to establish a market. Local farmers had said they were taking their meat and produce—and money from customers—outside the county.
Griffin, a Los Angeles-area native who worked for Warner Bros. briefly and is now a contractor at Lockheed Martin, first had the idea last year. She was active duty in the Navy for over four years, and just recently ended a stint with the Navy Reserve.
Impressed by other markets, she wanted Stafford residents to have their own.
“We have everything that a great community should have, but I don’t think our people should drive to other locations to get those other needs fulfilled,” she said.
With development picking up, she said the potential for a vibrant market is huge.
After finishing a master’s thesis in November, she contacted Borst and others in the community for help.
It’s felt like a second full-time job for the past few months, one that goes unpaid. Griffin has spent a few hundred dollars from her own pocket for application fees and a website domain—which is why she’s hopeful the EDA grant will come through.
“The rewarding part of this, since it’s so much work and it’s a little stressful, is how excited everyone is,” Griffin said. “Everyone I talk to—the lady at the bank was super excited—everyone just gets so happy and into it. I think it’s something that could help bring our community together.”
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975
North Stafford farmers market hours of operationThe market is slated to open on June 2 at the Stafford Hospital Medical Pavilion, 125 Hospital Center Blvd., and to operate Sundays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., through October.
Between 12-15 vendors will sell produce, meat, dairy products, baked goods and possibly dog treats. Organizer Vanessa Griffin is now accepting applications from interested vendors at NorthStaffordFM@gmail.com. Keep up with the market’s news at ns-fm.com.