ASAP likes to share the stories of people who help us fulfill our mission. This month we talk with Carol Griffith, manager of Ashe County Farmers Market in West Jefferson. The market will open May 1 and run Saturday mornings through October.
What are you looking forward to for the Ashe County Farmers Market this season?
I am looking forward to seeing all my vendors again and all the fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers. Our market is also doing something a little different this year. Our bylaws state that we have to meet the 60/40 rule of farmers versus crafters. In past years, we were unable to accept new crafters [to keep this ratio]. This year we have decided to hold a special Arts and Craft Expo the second Saturday of each month, June to October. With the pandemic, so many festivals, etc., had to be canceled. Many artists felt that hit in their pocketbooks. Hopefully this will be a way to help them make some income. I have had an overwhelming amount of crafters who have signed up for this! I think it will bring more customers in too.
What types of produce and other local products should people expect this spring?
Lots of leafy greens, herbs, fresh asparagus, early garlic, ramps, and starter plants for the garden. We will probably start the market with about 20 vendors [of 47 regular vendors] since the growing season starts a little later here. Most vendors will be at the market by June.
Do you have favorite seasonal recipes or meals for this time of year?
My family loves asparagus and big fresh salads. A favorite recipe for asparagus is to roast it in the oven with garlic and olive oil drizzled over it.
Ashe County Farmers Market is offering Double Up Food Bucks again for 2021. How have you seen the program affect the community?
Yes, Ashe County Farmers Market is offering Double Up Bucks for SNAP again for 2021 and thanks to RAFI, we will also be able to offer Double UP for WIC and Senior FMNP Coupons this year. We are very excited about that! We saw some uptick with the SNAP Double Up Bucks program last year but I feel like it will be stronger this year as more and more people get their vaccines and feel more comfortable in coming out to the market.
How is the market continuing to respond to COVID-19?
We are opening the market the same as last year. We will require all customers and vendors to wear a face covering while at the market. We will ask people to social distance where possible. We have marked off our market to “one way” and we will use caution tape around the market to try to move people to the entrance. I greet everyone that comes in and offer a squirt of hand sanitizer if they choose to take it. If our vendors offer samples, they will be in closed containers for customers to take off site to eat.
All of our vendors and most of our customers last year were very thankful that we were taking great precautions to try to keep everyone safe. I feel like most people will feel the same this year. At least I hope so! I will say that even though 2020 was a pandemic year, we had about 5,000 more customers visit our market than we did in 2019! Many of our vendors reported that it was their best year for sales, too. Who would have thought?