By Stephen Smoot
For almost a decade, the Pendleton County Farmers Market has linked customers with healthier and tastier local and regional food options. This year, those options include big savings for some.
Those receiving SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps, can benefit from a nationwide program called “SNAP Stretch.” Customers bring their cards to the market information booth and receive tokens or paper script. Adult individuals get a one-to-one match. Children and seniors over 60 get an added one-to-one match.
These benefits can be used on both EBT or PEBT cards issued to some schoolchildren over the summer as supplemental nutritional assistance. Although the program extends nationwide, each state runs it differently. The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition helps to administer the program in the Mountain State.
Although hours of operation only run from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, expect the market to serve as a hub of activity all summer. Annie Humes, along with Becky Rightsell from Dean’s Gap Farms, runs the market. Rightsell runs the market operations while Humes performs outreach, event planning, and more.
Humes and Rightsell see the market as more than simply a place to buy and sell food. Their vision lies in creating a sharing community based on food and related activities. As Humes says, “We want to have more things for folks to do at the market.”
This includes special events. For example, as Humes describes, “the library’s reading program this year is about pollinators.” She shared that the market will set up “seed bomb” projects for children and also stated that “we can do messy arts and crafts projects for kids.”
Officials from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection will come to the market on June 3 to educate attendees on one of Pendleton County’s most vital natural resources, soil. A horse trailer with a soil demonstration will be on hand that morning. Other presentations will focus on the environment and waterways.
Few things complement great food more than great music. Humes said that several musical acts, including Dulcimer Dames, will play at the market. The market’s calendar of events will be updated each time a new one is scheduled.
The core of the market community, however, lies in food and how it connects people. Humes describes how tourists will arrive on Friday night, then first thing the next morning gravitate to the farmers market. There, visitors and locals alike can regularly see products from Dean’s Gap Farm, Black Horse Farm, and much more.
From Jackson River Bakery, just across the county and state line near Monterey, Virginia, comes legendary doughnuts with maple as one of their specialties.
The market sells much more than food. Blackthorn Farm, owned by Leonard and Trish Uptain, sells “incredible varieties of lavender products.” These include spa, aromatherapy, culinary products and more. Humes called Trish Uptain “truly talented.” This year, the market also received a grant to support the creation of a consignment section as well.
Perhaps one of the market’s most special attributes comes from a policy of including those dipping their toe into the pool of marketing their own products. “We have a lot of people who offer a little bit of something,” Humes said.
They are usually vendors without enough time, energy, or productive capacity to run their own stand or shop. That said, they still produce remarkable products in the gray area between operating as a hobbyist and as a business owner. For example, as Humes states, “Teresa Munn sells macramé, hand-woven wall art.”
Humes explains that she wants microproducers to have a welcome place to enjoy their hobby or grow a business. This includes jams, sauces, arts and crafts, and anything else that local producers can bring to sell. This produces the kind of locally produced food and other items that tourists love to buy and share while also capturing more tourism dollars for the area.
“There is so much bounty in this county,” Humes shared.