Three area farmers have been working to recruit more produce and craft vendors to the Brooke County Farmers Markets, which return for the season this week.
Farmers markets will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday outside Unity Apartments on state Route 2 at the north end of Wellsburg and during the same hours July 17 at the Ray Stoaks Plaza by the Follansbee City Building on Route 2.
Markets will be held at the two sites on an alternating basis through October, pending the harvest season, and a third market is planned for Bethany beginning Aug. 3 at a location to be announced.
FARMERS MARKET COMING — Area farmers from left, Ruth Brown and Britney Hervey Farris, both of Wellsburg, and Dale T. Brant of New Manchester have been preparing for the first Brooke County Farmers Market of the season, to be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday outside Unity Apartments on state Route 2 in Wellsburg and during the same hours July 24 at Follansbee’s Ray Stoaks Plaza. -- Warren Scott
Senior citizens planning to patronize the markets should call the Brooke County Senior Center at (304) 527-1410 about discount vouchers available to them.
Vouchers from Women Infants and Children and food stamps may be accepted in the future.
In recent years many area residents have frequented the Wellsburg and Follansbee markets, purchasing a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables and hand-made crafts.
But the number of vendors has been low, leading Ruth Brown, a regular vendor at the markets, to work with the Brooke County West Virginia University Extension Service to recruit more.
She and fellow Wellsburg farmer Britney Hervey Farris and Dale T. Brant, who farms at his New Manchester home in Hancock County, have teamed to form the Brooke County Farmers Market Board of Directors.
And they are very serious about bringing more vendors to the markets.
"This year there's no fee (for vendors) to participate. The three of us are eating the cost to get it going," said Brown.
They also are planning a third farmers market in Bethany slated to begin Aug. 3 at a location to be announced.
The trio note they aren't the only vendors set to participate, and they are looking to add more.
"It's an open market. Other vendors are welcome" said Brown.
She said vendors must meet certain conditions, though.
For example, vendors must live within a 50-mile radius of Brooke County's borders. At least 75 percent of what they sell must be their own produce. The rest must be purchased within a 50-mile radius.
Vendors also may sell crafts, baked goods and jellies, jams and other canned produce, but all must be made by them.
Those interested in participating may call Brown at (304) 374-2164 or (304) 737-2737, Farris at (304) 266-0402 or Brant at (304) 479-1911, e-mail the group at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit its Facebook page at Brooke County Farmers Market.
The group has high hopes for the farmers markets.
"I would like to see us open much earlier in the season and stay open later in the year," said Brown.
She said that could be possible by securing grants available for low and high tunnels, plastic structures used to protect plants against cooler temperatures or excessive precipitation.
The three said because the markets require vendors to sell mostly their own produce, the fruits and vegetables each week will depend on the local season. But they and other market vendors will have a variety of product with them on Wednesday.
That includes tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and cabbage. Brown also will have for sale a variety of fruit pies and breads.
Farris and her husband, Charlie, have planted sweet corn and hope to have it for sale later this month or August, depending on suitable weather.
She and her husband have established a farm on land her family has owned since the 1700s and have a deed for some of it printed on buckskin and signed by Patrick Henry, Farris said.
Brant said he worked in a local greenhouse years ago and took up gardening again after family matters brought him back to Hancock County.
He enjoys planting lesser known varieties of vegetables, such as purple tomatoes and carrots, as well as such standard offerings as red and green tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower and green, yellow and lima beans.
As the season progresses, the three said the farmers market may include watermelon, assorted squash and pumpkins.