Williamsburg Farmers Market places fourth in national contest

The Williamsburg Farmers Market has placed among the top five farmers markets in the country in a national contest presented by the American Farmland Trust.

Each summer, in an effort to raise awareness about farmers markets, the annual Farmers Market Celebration allows consumers to vote for local markets.

The Williamsburg Farmers Market ranked fourth in each of the five categories: People's Choice, Focus on Farmers, Healthy Food for All, Pillar of the Community and Champion for the Environment. The contest results were announced Monday.

Market manager Tracy Herner said the Williamsburg Farmers Market has participated in the contest since it began in 2010. Though the contest has changed over the years, Herner said the Williamsburg's market always does well.

Last year, she said, the farmers market placed second in all categories.

Herner attributed the market's success both to supportive customers and social media.

"Each one of our vendors is an individual business, and now that social media is really easy for everybody, our vendors are definitely helping spread the word about things like the America's Favorite Farmers Market Celebration," Herner said.

Charlottesville's farmers market also placed in the top five.

"We have seen the rise in popularity of markets across the state, and we knew that Charlottesville and Williamsburg were very highly regarded in their communities. To see then near the top of a national list is particularly rewarding," said Sandy Adams, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, in a news release from the department.

Herner said the contest helps spotlight farmers markets at a time of year when they typically don't get much attention. She also thinks the timing right with elections around the corner.

"Many farmers markets are doing a lot more than ever when it comes to food access," Herner said.

In fact, Herner said, the Williamsburg Farmers Market recently removed the limit from its match for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) dollars.

The market previously matched SNAP dollars up to $30. Now, thanks to continued funds from a three-year FINI grant received in 2015, the market can now provide a limitless match.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

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