As October comes to a close, Spoon University at Virginia Tech is taking the time to reflect on our month of “local.” For us, it meant connecting to our roots and with the local farmer’s market to better understand what community partnership brings to the table – and it’s not just food.
The Blacksburg Farmer’s Market has been around since the 1980s, but really began to take shape in 2002 thanks to the vision of the Friends of the Farmer’s Market, the organization in charge.
In 2006, the beautiful wooden archway that covers the stretch of the market was established, officially making the farmer’s market an integral part of the Blacksburg community.
Market Director Ian Littlejohn (pictured below) is a former defense contractor who fell in with the market in January of last year. Ian loves the farmer’s market for many reasons, but “it’s being able to perpetuate the local food community in Blacksburg” that he loves the most.
“Being an available outlet for folks to get food and form relationships with the people that are growing their food” are two of the qualities that Ian deems most important. Over the last eight months, he’s seen a large influx of students which, in addition to the market’s loyal residential following, has bolstered the customer base.
The Blacksburg Farmer’s market wants to become broader, and increase their
handful of loyal restaurants that support farm-to-table including (but not limited to) Palasades, the Black Hen and London Underground.
Besides being something fun to do in the middle of the week and on the weekends (Wednesdays from 2-7 P.M. and Saturdays from 8 A.M. to 2 P.M. year-round), what are the benefits for college students of shopping at the farmer’s market? A better question might be – what ISN’T beneficial about it?
College students reap major health benefits from purchasing and eating locally-sourced foods, and get students away from the (A+) dining halls and out into the community. Students can sample foods they’ve never tried before, and access direct information about the food that they’re consuming.
Our Spoon VT event involved our chapter having a table at the farmer’s market to raise awareness about our publication in the Blacksburg community and draw VT students to the market.
We had visitors participate in a “Spoon Count” and selected the person who was closest to the right number (of spoons in jars) for the prize ($25 gift card to PK’s, a local pizzeria and bar). Congrats again, Alex Ray!
We offered candy to visitors (not in the stranger-danger kind of way), walked around the market and chatted with vendors, and had bumper stickers, pens, and a farmer’s market calendar of events up for grabs to anyone who stopped by.
So what did our chapter gain from this experience? WE LOVED IT, OBVIOUSLY. VT Spooners loved the feeling of community, the atmosphere, the variety of produce and the information.
Member Sophie Pinton said; “It was cool for me as a freshman to be standing with everyone else as members representing Spoon. […] I’ve been to the market a few times since I’ve been here and it was neat to be among all the other vendors who dedicate so much time and effort and pretty much their lives to supporting the local community.”
Supporting local business is so important, whether it revolves around food or not. Take a tip from Spoon University at Virginia Tech: get out there and spoon with your community!