The South Hill Farmers Market is scheduled to open May 4, and this year it will do so under the direction of a new leader. Local farmer and Food Hub secretary Jacqueline Moyer is now serving as the farmers market director, and she said she was thrilled to take on the new role.
“That’s what life is about really, is helping each other and serving each other, and a farmers market represents all of those things,” Moyer said.
Moyer sees the market as a way to provide, fresher, healthier options to the community, benefit the town, and also support local farmers in a time when farms can be threatened by an aging demographic and expanding urban areas.
“We don’t want them to be an endangered species, either,” Moyer said. “We love our local farmers.”
Moyer is trying to bring numerous community resources into one location at the market. Over the course of the season, the Master Gardeners will have their annual plant sell at the farmers market, and plans are underway to have a canned food drive, a blood drive, and a hands-only CPR class. Southside Community College’s nursing program will also be coming to take blood pressure and provide information on health.
“It’s just really about bringing the community together… and giving them a good reason to come and gather,” Moyer said.
The Virginia Cooperative Extension is sponsoring a frequent shopper program in which participants will be entered in a monthly drawing for a basket.
The farmers market will also celebrate events to engage children this year, such as national dairy month, in which kids will get to practice milking an artificial cow, and national egg month, which will serve as an opportunity to teach children how to make deviled eggs. Moyer hopes to help children develop a taste for healthy food while they are young.
“We just want kids to get in touch with their food,” Moyer said.
Moyer said she has reached out to over 200 farmers, crafters and producers to encourage them to consider selling in South Hill. Two advantages the South Hill market has over others in the area are that it is covered and it is on cement, which enable the market to be more comfortably open rain or shine. Moyer is also ordering a hand-washing station. Currently there are about 15 vendors signed up to be part of the market, though not all will necessarily be there every week. Last year, the market had about 10 regular weekly vendors.
Moyer is trying to make the market more of a weekend destination, complete with entertainment. She already has dance groups and musicians signed up to perform, and she is looking for a church choir that would be interested in singing on the weekends before and after July Fourth. She would like to attract additional acts.
“We’re looking for talent that would want to come every market,” Moyer said.
Moyer grew up in Houston, but during the summers she spent time with her grandparents in the Ozarks. She became interested in agriculture and was an FFA member in high school. Moyer was awarded the Houston Livestock Show Rodeo Scholarship and other scholarships and used them to study animal science and genetics at Texas A&M University, earning her degree in food science and nutrition.
Although Moyer worked outside of the agriculture field after college, she has since moved to Virginia and runs a certified organic farm and bed and breakfast in Red Oak with her husband, Jim, who is also a paramedic in Chase City and a dispatcher at the Boydton Emergency Services Center. Together they raise produce, including berries and pecans, as well as endangered farm animals, such as the American Guinea Hog and Milking Devon Cattle. Moyer has also earned her Master Food Preserver certification and teaches classes on all sorts of preservation, from canning to slaughtering. The farm also produces seeds for seed companies.
“It’s just my husband and I, so it’s not that we have a lot of everything; we just do a little bit of everything,” Moyer said.
Moyer has enjoyed making the change to a rural and small-town area, and she looks forward to the opportunity to meet people at the farmers market.
“I just love the fact that there’s such a sense of community, and I love being a part of that,” Moyer said.
Moyer is trying to make training and resources available to potential vendors to help them get started. There will be a vendor meeting April 16, and on April 17 the extension office will be at the Southern Virginia Makers Market offering training on the regulations surrounding farmers markets. That class does require pre-registration. April 23 the Virginia Farmers Market Association will be holding a marketing class for farmers in Richmond, which also requires registration. Vendors and customers can connect with the farmers market on Facebook, where, in the weeks to come, they will be able to find video segments introducing them to area producers.