The Blacksburg Farmer’s Market is a very exciting place to be. The market is held under a shelter structure designed by Virginia Tech’s architecture students and faculty. On weekends, there are kids playing in the grassy lawn next to the shelter, live musicians perform, and students relax on the benches.
For sale at the market is anything you can imagine, and some quite exotic goods. There are stands with people making pancakes, simple vegetable growers, high output industrialized farms selling their produce, and local people selling all kinds of organic drinks, sauces, and snacks.
The culture surrounding the market seems at first to be quite closed off or having its own subculture. Many of the vendors know each other, and know all of their regular customers. These regulars are generally middle aged parents, some bringing their children to the market. College students form a kind of different subset; they lurk around the edges, shyly approaching vendors to ask about their merchandise. I had to push myself to approach a few vendors and talk. They may say “hello, how are you?”, but they don’t press conversation. The customer is left to initiate discussion of actually purchasing the goods, which can be somewhat awkward or embarrassing when you are not familiar with the procedures.
Overall this makes the market somewhat hard to approach. But once you realize how friendly and helpful most of the vendors are, it becomes easy to talk with them. Many are willing to talk about almost anything, and answer any questions you may have. I even saw one vendor having a conversation about water quality, fertilizer usage, and pollution with a group of students, to help them with a project.
Most of the people at the market could be described as forward thinking and modern. They are eager adopters of any new organic food, and many show up with their own reusable grocery bags ready to fill. This is most likely a group of people unique to a college town. I imagine I would hear more accents and colloquialisms from the crowd at any other Appalachian farmer’s market. I also imagine this would be an even more difficult group to approach and become comfortable with.
We are lucky to have such a wonderful connection to local, forward thinking farmers. It would be good for every student to visit the market while they are attending Virginia Tech, as it has a fun atmosphere, it is a source for many delicious fruits, vegetables, snacks, and meats, and allows young people to interact with older adults and start becoming active members in society.