A cold Saturday morning may not be a student’s ideal weekend retreat after five days of classes, but music, fresh food and chefs’ demonstrations promise a familiar, warm atmosphere for the Williamsburg Farmers Market’s hundreds of loyal customers. This Saturday’s market, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. until noon on Duke of Gloucester Street, marks the first of the season, though the tradition will celebrate its fifth year this July.
p. “It’s exciting that we’ve come that far that fast,” Libbey Oliver, market manager for the Williamsburg Farmers Market, said. For Oliver, like many participants, the chill and early morning commencement never dampens the excitement of the colorful, aromatic stands, which attract customers with the guarantee of fresher products at fair prices.
p. The farmers who travel up to 150 miles to participate are as diverse and inviting as their products. The relationship that these vendors have formed with local customers is what keeps both parties coming back. “Customers say they miss the products and their friends. That’s really what it’s all about,” Oliver said.
In terms of economic concepts, a student’s lack of sleep throughout the school week generally demands a weekend of slumber, keeping them from these morning markets.
p. At the same time, the purpose of the Saturday event is to help stimulate the local farm economy. If principles of economic stability aren’t enough to get students out of bed, health concerns that shape the dietary habits of many may serve as motivation. Most of the customers flocking from campus do tend to be staff members and professors, but both students and professors can appreciate a local, healthy alternative to campus dining.
p. Health buffs and economics majors may not be the only students who can fully appreciate the value and importance of the Farmers Market. An environmental studies class called Sustainability and Agriculture, taught by professor John Swaddle, a farm-owner who commutes to campus for classes, also promotes the benefits of this local event.
p. Though many area farms stop producing during the winter and the selection of the year’s first market won’t be at its peak due to the weather, it will provide a wide range of products including bison, chicken, honey, mushrooms and gourmet sprouts. This week, 15 vendors will attend, bringing diverse products from all over the area. While the weather will make the presence of flowers unlikely, with Valentine’s Day just days away, baked goods should certainly be one of this week’s hottest items.
p. The recommencing of this long-standing tradition in Williamsburg is special to vendors and customers, but also to the historical context of the area. Reminiscent of colonial trade markets, the event’s Merchant Square setting, according to Oliver, couldn’t be better. “We think we’ve got the best location in the country — the flower beds and benches make it a very comfortable atmosphere,” she said. The weekly musical guest, sponsored by Ukrops, only enhances the aura of the DoG Street event. Later this spring, the market will feature the William and Mary Appalachian String band. This week, the “Un-Four-Gettable” women’s barbershop quartet will harmonize with the bustle of customers and vendors trading friendship, products and profit.