Posted: June 17, 2014 at 9:29 pm
By: Kaity Wilson, Whitley Rose and Jimmy Scott
A local city that has been considered a food desert now has a new option for purchasing fresh produce. The Morgantown Farmer’s Market has expanded to a second location in Westover, and will give the community, which has no grocery stores, somewhere other than gas stations to buy food in their city.
Each Tuesday from June through October from 4-7 p.m. in the former Shop N’ Save parking lot on Fairmont Road, vendors will gather to sell locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats, plants, and more.
Market manager Lisa Lagana says the idea to put a market in Westover was brought to her by the Westover Rotary Club.
“They said you all have a very good reputation,” said Lagana. “So they worked with us and the city of Westover to bring the Morgantown Farmer’s Market and extend it to Westover.”
Lagana said the market had been considering expanding to another location for some time.
“We looked into various locations around Morgantown, and I know our vendors wanted a second outlet for their products,” she said.
It took several months to pull together all the plans, so the first market was held on June 3; just one month after the downtown Morgantown location began its regular season.
According to Lagana, the city of Westover is actually considered a food desert by the USDA. There are many issues involving low-income and limited mobility or transportation for the people in the city.
“Because Westover does not actually have any sort of grocery store, it’s considered a food desert, and bringing the farmers’ market there is actually extremely beneficial to the community,” said Lagana.
“Anyone that does not have any sort of transportation can now access healthy and local foods, as previously where they would have to go to, say, the local gas station and just pick up a gallon of milk.”
Currently, the Westover market has 10 vendors, but by the end of the season three to five more will be joining.
Judy Stewart of Stewart’s Farm and Greenhouse in Pentress, W.Va. has been a regular vendor at the Morgantown Farmer’s Market since 2006, and she will now also be vending at the new location in Westover.
Stewart said that her first market in Westover went very well.
“Sometimes starting a new market doesn’t pan out,” she said. “But the crowd came and the community is happy so we’re happy.”
Other vendors and shoppers also seemed to enjoy the new market, which was very busy during its first week. Along with seasonal market finds such as pepper plants, flowers, jams, and tomatoes, the market featured live music and an ice cream truck.
Lagana said that the first market had a turnout of about 1,500 people.
“The first weekend had a fantastic turnout, so our vendors know now to double-up everything that they bring,” she said.
The Morgantown Farmer’s Market started out at the Seneca Center on Beechurst Avenue in 2002 before being invited to the downtown location about four years later. In 2012 the market built a pavilion on Spruce Street to give it a permanent home.
The market has made tremendous growth over the last 12 years and helped the local community and economy to thrive. Lagana hopes that the expansion to Westover will make way for even more growth. According to her, shopping locally is one of the best ways to support the community, and is one of the reasons Morgantown has remained stable through the recent recession.
“When you support your local farmer, you also support your local community,” she said. “So there’s actually a multiplier effect that happens whenever you put money back in your community.”
According to Lagana, if you buy from a grocery store, there is data that shows only about 16 cents out of an entire dollar goes back to a farmer through a chain grocery store, but when you buy from a farmers’ market, it’s almost the entire dollar.
“So whenever you give money back to the farmer, the community and the economy is definitely boosted,” she said.