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Pete Hancock greeted a group of children from the Little Light Early Learning Center with a big “hello”—and a slice of cantaloupe.
Several came back for seconds. One of the young girls wanted thirds.
It was a Friday morning at the Bedford Farmers’ Market and the vendors there were staying busy.
Hancock and his partner, Bob Stohr, were doing their fair share of business as well.
This is the first year for Hancock and Stohr to be at the market. Their partnership grew out of a friendship.
“I raise a large garden,” Hancock said of his home off Pisgah Road.
Stohr handles much of the sales at the Farmers’ Market. “I help out as I can,” Hancock said.
On Friday, that meant cutting the cantaloupe for the youth from the Early Learning Center.
“It’s worked out good,” he said of the partnership.
Hancock raises some of what they sell there; the rest is purchased from other Virginia farmers. “A lot of it comes from the eastern shore,” he said.
His big seller? Corn.
“We can’t raise enough of it,” Hancock said. “Bedford County must be the corn eating capital.”
Hancock’s garden takes up about two acres of his 26-acre property. He expects to expand the garden next season. This is the first year Hancock has actually tried to sell his products.
“It just sort of blossomed,” he said of the Farmers’ Market effort. “We have actually increased the amount we are growing. Next year we’re going to have to plant a lot more.”
Hancock works for International Paper in Lynchburg; Stohr is retired.
They only had a few offerins when they started, but have brought in more over time.
“As we were able to add more products, business picked up,” Hancock said.
Hancock likens the Farmers’ Market atmosphere to that of outdoor entertainment.
“It’s a great attraction,” he said, adding that people are coming to the Market from surrounding areas, as well as from Bedford.
And he’s pleased with how the Bedford Farmers’ Market is going, crediting Bedford Main Street Executive Director Sue Montgomery for the work she and the Main Street Board have done to promote it.
“Fresh local food is known to be healthier and better for us than products that are shipped in from long distances,” stated Montgomery. “We are fortunate here in Bedford to have a number of local growers and producers who work very hard, and often at extremely low profit margins, to bring that food to our market. This includes local wineries, meats and fish, bakers, live plants, and those who make jams and jellies, in addition to produce.”
Montgomery said Bedford Main Street, Inc. is pleased to offer a location for its shoppers to purchase those products. “As we say, shop local, shop fresh—and we also hope those shoppers will pick up merchandise from our downtown merchants while they are in town,” she said.
Bill Mosley serves as chairman of the Bedford Main Street Farmers Market committee, “We’re very grateful to the Market vendors and our market patrons who’ve made the re-introduction of Tasty Tuesdays a success this year,” he said. “In addition to our traditional Tuesday and Friday Market days, this year we brought back Tasty Tuesdays from 3-7 p.m. with more and an even greater variety of product offerings.”
He stated that it’s not too late for anyone considering becoming a Market vendor, including those doing prepared food. Those desiring more information can give Montgomery a call at the Main Street office (586-2146).
August 4-10 has been labeled National Farmers' Market Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, promoting farmers markets as a place for communities—rural and urban, farmer and consumer—to gather.