By CYNTHIA McCLOUD
For The State Journal
Philippi’s Farmers Market is growing both the incomes and the food options of Barbour County residents.
Heart and Hand House Inc., a nonprofit mission project affiliated with the United Methodist Church, has operated the Community Garden Market for 21 years, recently moving it to a location organizers named The Market Place, located at 106 S. Main St., Philippi.
Its goals are two-fold and mesh with Heart and Hand House, which assists low-income families with utility bills, home repair and construction, provides baby layettes to new mothers and operates a food pantry and thrift stores.
“Our mission is to help low-income families in our county with an extra income-earning opportunity,” said Brenda Hunt, executive director of Heart and Hand House Inc. “If they have jobs or childcare needs that would keep them from setting up a stand at a farmer’s market, they can just bring us things to sell for them and go.”
Anyone can sell or shop at The Market Place — from people who farm for a living to gardeners and crafters. Sellers drop off their wares, The Market Place displays and sells them, then cuts the producer a check for 80 percent of the proceeds, keeping 20 percent for overhead costs.
“I’ve got a neighbor who sells eggs and apples from his orchard and produce and it provides him with $800-$1,000 of extra spending money a year,” said Bucky Poling of Moatsville. “It’s the same with a lot of different farmers in the county. It costs a lot to grow a garden and by the time you process everything for your own home, you always have a little extra. The Market Place gives you an outlet to make a little money back.”
Poling sells extra eggs from free-range chickens on his 147-acre farm. He puts the proceeds into his grandchildren’s savings accounts for college.
The Market Place’s stock changes with the season.
“Right now, we’re picking zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries,” said Lisa Sickler of The Sickler Farm in Philippi. “We also produce flowers like mums and spring hanging baskets and bedding plants.”
In May, because of Mother’s Day, Lisa and her husband, Jeff, made $4,000 at The Market Place, though that’s not a typical month’s sales.
The Sicklers like the convenience of having their goods in front of the public five days a week at one location where someone else makes the sale, freeing them up to work their farm or man booths at other farmer’s markets.
“It is one of two consignment-type farmer’s markets in West Virginia,” Hunt said. “As far as I know, we were the first, then The Wild Ramp opened in Huntington.”
The Sicklers also sell honey, and The Market Place also carries jams, meat, baked goods such as cakes and pepperoni rolls and a few craft items.
“They have some unusual items I don’t necessarily grow in my garden, like strawberries and kale,” said Patty Bowmar of Philippi.
Retired from Alderson-Broaddus University, Bowmar knits dishcloths and sews quilted potholders she sells at The Market Place.
“I like to sew and quilt, and I like to shop for crafts,” Bowmar said. “I think crafts add a nice little extra thing to The Market Place.”
With bakery cases and produce coolers, The Market Place feels like a grocery store — and not just because it’s located in the old Philippi IGA. There’s even a coffee and doughnut shop.
A local foods café will be added in the future.
“We will take what is available at the garden market and prepare some simple luncheon and maybe breakfast items,” Hunt said.
Now, one day a week, West Virginia University Extension agents prepare dishes from what’s in season, such as kale, and give shoppers a taste of a food they’ve maybe never tried before or didn’t know how to cook.
The Market Place is open from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, and 7 a.m.-noon Saturday. This past year was the first it was open year-round.
“Several farmers in the area have purchased and are implementing high tunnels to increase their capacity to produce longer into the year and earlier in the year,” Hunt said.
The site is also becoming a gathering place, with Main Street Philippi and Bible study groups hosting meetings there.
“It’s open to the entire community,” Hunt said. “We also want to promote the use of local, fresh, healthy foods in our community. We keep those dollars local and that helps us all as a community all the way around.
“We want to encourage them and empower them to be somewhat self-sufficient so there’s the opportunity for them to sell but also a place for them to purchase good nutritious food for their families,” she said. “We try to give vouchers out with our food pantry boxes they can spend at The Market Place. And growers will bring in produce and say, ‘I don’t want the proceeds; donate them to Heart and Hand House’ or, ‘I want to donate this directly to the food pantry.’”
The Market Place accepts SNAP benefits, WIC and senior citizen vouchers, cash, check and credit/debit cards.