There's a bit of a shake-up in the farmer's market scene on the Peninsula this year. Port Warwick's mid-week market in Newport News has been canceled, and a new market will debut at Hampton's Peninsula Town Center.
Farmer's markets have exploded nationwide, experiencing a 150 percent increase in the past decade, and a nearly 10 percent increase from 2011 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Virginia, with 277 markets, is one of the Top 10 U.S. states for the number of farmer's markets, the report says.
As spring begins — cold as it may be this year — markets across the Peninsula open to provide residents with fresh fruits, vegetables, artisan crafts and fresh flowers.
Jessica Johns, of Newport News, says shoppers should take advantage of having access to the farmer.
"Talk to the people selling it to you," she says. "They always give great tips about what to look for and suggestions on what to do with (the food). Plus, knowing more about where your food comes from makes it taste better to us. Being able to ask the farmers about the fruits and veggies gets my kids to eat more of them."
Instead of shopping with a specific list, Martha Grondin also of Newport News, says she makes purchases based on "what looks good."
"I always try to go with an open mind," she says.
Kelly Schulte says she often shops at the Williamsburg Market on Saturday mornings.
"I always push around the 'belly button' of a cantaloupe," she says. "If it's just a little squishy, it is ripe and sweet."
Here's the lineup of local markets open this spring.
Smithfield Farmers' Market
In its eleventh season, the Smithfield market features pork and peanuts, just as one would suspect. Shoppers also will find locally grown produce, cheese, plants, herbs, baked goods, coffee, barbecue, honey, wood-fired pizza and crafts.
Live music is a staple at this market, as well as a small petting zoo. Pets are welcome.
The market, which takes place on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, opened for the season on March 23. It will continue through October.
The market is located on Main Street in downtown Smithfield, in the parking lot behind Bank of Southside Virginia.
More information: smithfieldfarmersmarket.org.
Peninsula Town Center
Although all of the details for the new market are not yet known, a Peninsula Town Center spokeswoman says the market will take place between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. every Sunday beginning May 5.
"Between 14 and 20 local farmers will sell produce, flowers, baked goods, cheeses, seafood, fresh breads, jams, peanuts and more each week," says Ashley Martin, a spokeswoman for the center. "As far as we're aware, this is the only farmer's market in Hampton Roads that takes place on Sundays."
The market will take place in the center's town square area.
For updates: peninsulatowncenter.com.
Williamsburg Farmers Market
Also in its eleventh year, the Williamsburg market began its season on Saturday, March 30 and will run through the end of October.
Located in Merchant's Square, the market features more than 50 vendors throughout the season, including wines, coffees, honey, pasta, chocolate, home décor, eggs, teas, dog biscuits, fresh vegetables, breads and more.
The market takes place from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. In addition to vendors, shoppers will enjoy presentations by local chefs, master gardening classes and live music.
For more information: williamsburgfarmersmarket.com.
Yorktown Market Days
The Yorktown market begins for the season on Saturday, May 11, with more than 30 vendors on its 2013 roster.
The market features seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh seafood, eggs, cut flowers, gluten free products, dipping oils and meat rubs, and more. Live music adds to the market atmosphere each week.
The market, which is located at Yorktown's Riverwalk Landing, takes place from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays May through October.
For more information: riverwalklanding.com.
Gloucester Farmer's Market
Organizers says this Wednesday evening market will be enhanced with live music, community events like ice cream socials and other retail specials this year.
The market, which is located on Gloucester's Main Street, takes place from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning on a date still to be determined in May.
For updates: gloucestervillage.com or call 804-695-0700.
City Center Farmers Market
This mid-week market takes place on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning May 2.
The market features fruits, vegetables, seafood, plants, herbs, baked goods, free range chickens, bath products, fresh bread and dog treats.
Donika Haddock, of Poquoson, says this mid-week market is one of her favorites, though it is smaller in scope than some of the local weekend options.
For more information: citycenteratoysterpoint.com.
Suffolk Farmers' Market
Held beneath an open-air pavilion behind the Suffolk Visitor Center, the market features fresh fruits and vegetables and crafts.
The market opens on Saturday, April 20 and operates from 3 to 6 p.m. every Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through Nov. 23. Family and gardening events are often held in conjunction with the market.
For more information: Suffolk-fun.com.
Christopher Newport University Farmers' Market
The university market takes place every Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m. through April 18.
Sponsored by the university's student "Green Team," the market has gained a few new vendors this year, including local seafood, Stuft food truck and wood fired pizza.
"The Green Team recently won an $85,000 grant from the USDA to support our farmers markets and to provide stipends for students who intern at local farms over the summer," says Lauren Ruane, assistant professor of organismal and environmental biology at the university.
For more information: On Facebook.com, search Farmers' Market at CNU.
Dean and Don's
A Newport News staple, the Denbigh-area market has operated on the Peninsula for 46 years. Fresh produce is the daily market's largest draw.
Fruits and vegetables are grown on the Eastern seaboard, and shoppers can expect to see a focus on seasonal items.
The market, which is located at 12601 Warwick Blvd., is expected to open in early April.
For updates: See the market's Facebook page, search Dean & Don's Farm Market.
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