Saturday, January 28, 2012

Save Our Town

Last summer, the Charles Town Farmers Market was a veritable ghost town. With only a handful of vendors and little else, vendors and consumers alike closed the season disenchanted. At a public brainstorming session held this month, market vendors reported an estimated total of 150 customers for the hours the market was open.

How tragic.

In one of the most increasingly developing historic districts in the county, a farmers market should be at the center of weekend activity. New restaurants and shops are operating with a committed small-business community who value an event like the farmers market. Why don't we see consumers valuing it, too?
The burrito bar at Jumpin' Java (109 W. Washington St.,
Charles Town) is the area's best-kept secret.

It's not just the farmers market missing traffic in this area. It's the hip coffee shop that's also a standout burrito bar and regularly features the work of area artists. It's the Mediterranean Cafe who gives young musicians a stage and makes patrons as comfortable in its booths as on their couches. It's the wine shop that defies snobbery with bargain-priced bottles and free weekly tastings. It's the restaurant who serves food from area farms and focuses on seasonal ingredients. Everybody along Washington Street in downtown Charles Town seems to be suffering.

True, the economy drives more and more consumers toward discount stores like Wal-Mart, who continues to prove that big-box stores are killing small businesses dead. But with a number of second-hand shops, one would think Washington Street would see a little more traffic.

The Mediterranean Cafe (132 W. Washington St., Charles
Town) is a home away from home with a very diverse menu.
Attendees packed the small room of the aforementioned farmers market brainstorming session, proving that many in our region feel invested in this event. And I can't help to feel that this is the reason why: Because there's no denying that a farmers market creates a genuine sense of community. It gets people outdoors, supporting small farms, discovering their towns & eating healthier.

A wine shop that caters to the budget-minded oenophile,
Albert & Arnold's (207 W. Washington, St., Charles Town).
So what's it going to take? What do you want to see at your farmers market? What's going to lure you away from a lazy Saturday spent at home versus one spent in your (soon-to-be-more)
vibrant downtown?

Write to Jefferson County Agricultural Development Officer, Shep Ogden ( Tell him what can make the market better. Share your ideas and let him know what's going to work for you, and, inevitably, your community.

A town's vitality depends on its residents. Please make an effort to see this one thrives.


  1. Great post Vanessa. Thanks for attending the meeting and for being so involved and proactive. Our town will change because of people like you!

  2. Thanks, Vanessa...and thanks to people like Fiona and others, the market is set for a big upsurge in spring 2012 and will regain its place as a center-point in downtown Charles Town.

    The annual meeting for vendors is tonight, and we are expecting a big turnout.

    What customers will see beginning April 14 is a rebranded, revitalized, relocated, expanded (in both vendors and hours) farmers market in the 100 block of South Samuel St.

    We're excited, the town is excited, the vendors are excited, and we're sure the customers are going to be excited.