Charlottesville’s locavores will soon flock to the area’s farmers’ markets

The 40-year-old City Market, featuring more than 100 vendors, will be up and running on Saturday, April 6, at 7am. Photo: Ashley Twiggs The 40-year-old City Market, featuring more than 100 vendors, will be up and running on Saturday, April 6, at 7am. Photo: Ashley Twiggs

Now that “spring” has finally arrived, farmers’ markets will soon be up and running throughout the city and county. This market season brings some new vendors to the ever-popular City Market, along with some familiar faces from Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardeners.

City Market, which is run by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and has been located in the Water Street Parking lot for the past 18 years, opens for business on Saturday, April 6, bright and early at 7am.

With the future location of City Market still up in the air, a steering committee has been seeking public input and compiling preliminary design ideas since last November. According to Charlottesville’s Brevy Cannon, a member of the Market District Alliance, a local group pushing for the market to stay Downtown, the committee will present its findings to City Council in April or May.

In the meantime, City Market will continue to attract Charlottesville locavores every Saturday morning, with more than 100 vendors, including local farmers, bakers, and artisans.

Also re-joining the ranks this year will be the Horticulture Help Desk, a resource provided by the Master Gardeners. Armed with pamphlets, information packets, and an iPad to do research on the spot, volunteers will field questions ranging from “Where should I plant my tomatoes?” to “What’s this bug munching on my begonias?”

“It’s easy to get discouraged, especially for novice gardeners,” said member Cathy Caldwell, who joined the group last year. “We don’t want people to be discouraged, so we’re really hoping more and more will find out what they can learn from us.”

The club’s primary mission is providing education, Caldwell said, and it’s all deeply rooted in science rather than hearsay.

“We’re not telling people old wives’ tales, or ‘my aunt says to do this,’” Caldwell said. “We’ve been trained according to Virginia Tech’s agronomists, and it’s all very science-based.”

For example, if a gardener brings a diseased plant to the help desk and volunteers can’t identify the problem, they’ll send a sample to a lab in Blacksburg, where VT scientists will provide diagnosis information and treatment recommendations.

“We get a lot of tough questions,” said Master Gardener Coordinator Ellie Thomas. “We have a lot of very knowledgeable gardeners in the Charlottesville Albemarle area.”

Have questions for the Master Gardeners? Bring your plants and inquiries to their help desks around town: 

Mead Park Market: first and third Wednesdays, 3-7pm

City Market: Second and fourth Saturdays, 7am-noon

Crozet Market: Every other Saturday, 8am-noon

VA Cooperative Extension office: Mon-Fri, 9-11:30am