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More than produce at Galax Farmers' Market

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By April Wright, Reporter

On Friday and Saturday mornings, Galax Farmers’ Market vendors offer up fresh-baked bread, plants and flowers, herbs, locally harvested fruits and vegetables, canned and baked goods and handmade arts and crafts.
The two-year $34,000 grant from the Agriculture Market Service funds a part-time Galax Farmers’ Market manager to help get the word out about the Galax venue to increase vendors and shoppers.

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“It’s a great location and one of the only permanent facilities in the area,” said Kate Irwin, market manager, who has been a vendor to several area farmers’ markets. “There is no fee for vendors to participate, and we have such a wonderful variety of vendors.”
The market opened in 1990 in the parking lot beside Macado’s on North Main Street.
One vendor provides fresh leafy greens; another brings organic vegetables and eggs; and a seller from Cana brings blackberries, early peaches and apples, locally grown honey.
Scones, cookies and pies are also popular.
There are handmade aprons, dish cloths, teddy bears, bird houses, art and photography.
“At the farmers’ market, it’s a place where shoppers can make one stop and get their food for the week and even talk to the people who grow the food,” said Irwin. “You get to know where you food comes from and what’s in it. You know the food is fresh and hasn’t traveled across the country.”
The market is open May through October on Friday and Saturday mornings. Many items are sold out by the latter part of Friday morning.
However, one of Irwin’s goals is to strengthen the traffic on Saturday mornings.  “I want to increase local and regional awareness with the ultimate goal of being able to create a stronger market,” she said. “We have a good day on Friday, but we’d like to see more people on Saturdays.”
For some vendors, sales at the Galax Farmers Market pay their bills.
Vendor Cheryl Rogers said she began selling her baked breads, cookies, homemade hummus and dips at the market when she became unemployed.
“It’s been fun and I’ve met some great people,” said Rogers. “I had a sign posted that said, ‘Buy bread. I need tires.’ Now that I’ve got my tires, I need to change the sign to say, ‘Buy bread. I need glasses.’”
Elinore and C.J. Schlosser, who have their summer home in Pipers Gap, have sold their handmade birdhouses for the past three summers at the farmers’ market.
“When my hobby got out of hand and I needed a place to sell them, someone suggested that I bring them here,” said C.J. Schlosser. “So I come here every summer.”
Last year the city, through a $99,000 grant from Rural Development, completed a renovation of the Galax Farmers’ Market, installing restrooms and countertops, equipment and a sink that allow for cooking and canning demonstrations.
Brenda Marrah, grants administrator for Galax, said the hope is to also use the market to assist with Backpack Buddies, which provides meals to kids in need, and other local programs.
“The grant isn’t only to help the market, but we’re also hoping to have kids learning about farming,” said Marrah.
Irwin has been meeting with Backpack Buddies organizers to begin the collaboration. “We want to work with the Backpack Buddies so the meals provided are as healthy as they can be and contribute something fresh,” she said. “Being able to join the schools with the farmers’ market is important.”
Marrah said the best part of the market is that it is free to the vendors.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the public to get fresh foods,” said Marrah. “And we’re pleased to have it off to a good start.”
On Friday from 9 a.m.-noon, the Galax Farmers’ Market, along with Twin County Regional Hospital, will host a health fair, providing free blood pressure screenings, along with health awareness information.
“It’s a great place that is centrally located, and the farmers’ market is working to provide good and healthy good, providing an overall promotion of good health,” said Irwin, of why the market will be hosting the health fair.
Irwin said she’s hoping to have at least one event per month at the market.

Galax Farmers' Market

For more information on the market, call 238-8130, visit galaxfarmersmarket.com, or see “Galax Virginia” on Facebook, which provides updates on items available at the market.
Those interested in vending at the market can visit the Galax Visitors Center or visitgalax.com to fill out an application.
The market is open Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
All items sold at the market must be handmade orlocally harvested.