Prior to 1997 the farmers around the capitol city of Charleston, WV were relegated to a space under an interstate bridge to peddle their wares. While many farmers did a brisk business, particularly the ones who provided fresh cut Christmas trees, the situation was hardly ideal. When a local community organization formed to improve the green scape around Charleston a farmer’s market was first on the agenda.
Now, seven years later, many of the original producers have spots in the open air market located a stones throw from the original underpass. An idea, conceived by interested local citizens and supported by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture has provided a destination spot for many, and a fabulous market for locally grown products.
The Capitol Market’s indoor market is a refurbished train depot. The outdoor area, populated by as many as forty vendors at any time, consists of covered but open sided markets available for lease. While some vendors remain year around, others come and go with the seasons. The market itself remains open year around and provides many benefits for it’s vendors.
Probably the greatest asset to the producers that lease space at Capitol Market would be the marketing support that they receive. Recognizing the importance of a strong marketing plan, as well as the difficulty of implementing a plan as a small business, which most of these growers are, the Capitol Market provides marketing support for all growers. A monthly newsletter keeps consumers up to date on what is going on at the market, and weekly advertisements in the local papers provide additional coverage.
Marketing is also coordinated with the local library and the nearby Clay Center for the Arts and Science to provide activities at the market for families. These include traditional activities such as trick or treating, as well as cook-offs, science shows and other sesonal fun.
Another benefit provided by the Capitol Market is the new customer base that it has opened up to the vendors. By providing an area with a coffee shop, restaurants, meat and wine shops the walk up traffic has increased dramatically. In fact, it is not uncommon for a shopper to stop at the Capitol Market to shop for gifts rather than stop by the local mall.
Of course, the producer’s are expected to provide a benefit to the Capitol Market as well. This comes bearing the title of West Virginia Grown. All products sold in the market must be certified to be West Virginia Grown under the standards set forth by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. Farms are inspected and consumers can feel confident in the knowledge that their purchases have been grown in West Virginia and meet the standards set forth by the WV Department of Agriculture.