Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market 16th season to open

Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market 16th season to open

3Peas MarketGarden is operated by Eric Williams, a full-time vendor based in New Philadelphia.


The Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market, held weekly at the Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds June through October, will open for its 16th season on June 5 from 3-7 p.m. with many favorite vendors and a few new ones.

Two community partners, Avenues of Adventure and the Tuscarawas County Public Library, will be there along with the food truck Yummy Pita. At 5 p.m. music will begin with the Kodachrome Babies, and there also will be a cooking demonstration by local cookbook author Trang Moreland. Moreland’s book, “I Am You,” features a variety of mostly Vietnamese dishes and a few American favorites.

The market is operated by volunteers who believe in bringing people together to create a sense of community and to encourage a partnership between buyers and growers to serve the community by providing access to fresh, locally produced food.

New events will be introduced at this year’s market including a Juneteenth celebration, Senior Day, Kids Day and a Hispanic Heritage celebration.

“We have people from many different cultures in Tuscarawas County that shop at the market, and we want them to know that they’re important to the community,” said Bee LeMasters, marketing chair for the TVFM.

History of the TVFM

The organization began as an idea among members of the 2008 class of Leadership Tusc. Participants Mark McKenzie, Jonna Cronebaugh and Valerie Yoder spent almost two years traveling to other markets to find out best practices to determine what works and what doesn’t when it comes to operating a farmers market.

The group found two produce growers, Weaver’s Truck Patch and Yoder’s Produce, to build the market around. The first market was held in June 2009.

“The reason why we do this is because we think it’s incredibly important that we have available in our community, one, the knowledge base to grow our food and not have to rely on something very far away, 1,500-2,000 miles away. They really have no connection to us,” McKenzie said.

In addition, food grown locally is fresher, tastier and more nutritious. Producers only are allowed to sell at the market.

“You cannot buy and resell someone else’s product,” McKenzie said.

Not only does the market help customers, but also it helps the producers by acting as a local food business incubator. Producers pay only a small fee for their space.

They also offer a Food Hub, which connects local restaurants and healthcare facilities with local fresh produce. Participants pick up their order at the market each week.

The Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market is operated by an all-volunteer management team. Anyone with a passion for agriculture, commitment to community or who just wants to be part of something bigger is invited to volunteer.

Why the market needs to expand

The fairgrounds provide a lot of area for the market, but there are drawbacks to not having your own space.

“We don’t have a permanent area to stay organized or store the infrastructure for a market day. And it’s become difficult after 15 years, and we’re not getting younger,” McKenzie said.

Rain is a word no one wants to hear on market day. If there is any threat of wet weather at all, an alternative plan needs to be in place before the vendors show up.

“We have to move everything down under the grandstands. We’ve got to cancel the cooking demo. We’ve got to cancel the music,” McKenzie said. “It’s frustrating, and then we have to make a determination by at least noon on Wednesday.”

The process takes extra time from the volunteers that they could be using to do something else.

The future of the TVFM

The organization is looking for a location to build a year-round home as its popularity has shown a year-round facility would be successful. A year-round facility would require 5 acres for food and craft vendors, a food-preparation and test kitchen, parking, and space for outdoor horticulture.

One suggestion made by a local official was to ask the county’s Economic Development and Finance Alliance to see if it would be willing to donate the land from the Howden Buffalo property it owns on South Broadway in New Philadelphia.

The support shown for the market has been good, but the TVFM knew it could be improved upon and went back to the participants of Leadership Tuscarawas in 2014 for help.

“They helped us create our sponsorship program and improve our marketing,” McKenzie said.

They went back to the current class of Leadership Tusc with the idea of creating a permanent market location.

“We thought because Leadership Tusc has been a part of the origin and the foundation of the market, why not go back and appeal to them again and see if they can be a part of the legacy and the sustainability of the market?” McKenzie said.

Producers grow all the food sold within 50 miles of the market. Having a year-round market wouldn’t limit choices except for a couple of months. Season-extension techniques can be used, and those include high tunnels and low tunnels, also known as hoop houses, which protect the crops.

“As a result of that, we have products coming to the market earlier, and we have product later into the season,” McKenzie said, adding he is looking forward to new possibilities for the TVFM.

Visit www.tvffm.org.

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