Farmers market expands to healthy living collaborative - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Farmers market expands to healthy living collaborative

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Photo courtesy of Morgan’s Grove Market Photo courtesy of Morgan’s Grove Market
Photo courtesy of Morgan’s Grove Market Photo courtesy of Morgan’s Grove Market
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By MISSY SHEEHAN
For The State Journal

Morgan's Grove Market, a farmers market in Shepherdstown that's been a hub for local growers, food vendors, artisans and crafters since 2011, is setting its sights beyond typical farmers market offerings such as locally grown produce and homemade baked goods. 

Plans are in motion to transform the Saturday market into a year-round agricultural campus and healthy living collaborative that, in addition to giving the community access to nutritious, locally grown food, also will offer health care options and opportunities for lifestyle-focused businesses.

"We're merging two of the fastest growing industries right now — local food and health care," said Peter Corum, one of the market's managing members, during a meeting of market organizers and vendors April 2. 

"Our focus is on health and environmental and economic sustainability in our community," he added. 

Corum said five buildings will be built at 3988 Kearneysville Pike, where the market has been, next to Morgan's Grove Park for the past few years, as part of the market's expansion. Construction is set to begin later this month. With the market opening for the season May 3, the goal is to have the first building open by August, Corum said.

The first building will serve as a beta test and will house a commercial kitchen and storage for the market's food club and new online ordering system, Corum said. The other planned buildings will feature a homegrown/homemade store, a hardware and garden center, a private school, a fitness facility and several local retailers and restaurants.

"Eventually we'll be open six days a week once we're under a roof," Corum said. "But for now we're hoping to open a second market day on Tuesdays where vendors can drop stuff off for customers who will be able to order online," Corum said.

The plan also includes eventually offering the services of physicians, dentists, physical therapists, nutritionists, holistic doctors, herbalists, alternative therapists and fitness trainers on campus, Corum added.

"We're trying to help people change their habits and slowly move to a healthier lifestyle," Corum said. "West Virginia is facing a health crisis right now — obesity and diabetes rates are soaring."

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a family physician and professor of family medicine at West Virginia University who's helping to coordinate the Morgan's Grove Market Healthy Living Collaborative, said nutrition is the foundation of healthy living. 

"I deal with illness every day, and probably 90 percent of what I see is completely preventable, and most of it reversible, with lifestyle change," he said. "And nutrition is a crucial part of that. 

"If you look at one single thing that's the most important for any human being, that's it. You can't exercise away a bad diet."

Cucuzzella said market organizers are discussing strategies for connecting local farmers with the entire population of the Eastern Panhandle, especially those with the highest need. 

"Farmers markets don't usually reach people who are on supplemental nutrition assistance programs, such as low-income families, seniors and veterans, so we're trying to connect those groups to the market," he said.

The market's plans include putting systems in place to accept SNAP and WIC benefits. 

"We want affordable, healthy, tasty food that's accessible to all," Corum said.

In addition to focusing on encouraging healthy living, the organizers of Morgan's Grove Market are striving to provide an atmosphere where local farmers and lifestyle-focused businesses can grow and thrive. 

"The market is really an economic development tool," Corum said. "It's an incubator that will allow entrepreneurs to test out their ideas with no barriers to entry."

Jodi Jones and her husband, Ryan, are excited to debut their business, The Cultured Leaf, at the market this year. Based in Keedysville, Md., The Cultured Leaf will offer fermented products such as kombucha and sauerkraut. 

"Kombucha is a fermented tea," said Jodi. "It's obviously not tested by the FDA, but it's known for liver detoxification."

"I always tell people to drink it for a while and see how it makes you feel," she added. The tea will be available in flavors like ginger, strawberry and raspberry lemon.

Creekside Farms of Jefferson County, based in Shepherdstown, also will be making its debut at the market this year. Mel Johnson, farm manager, said the farm's been selling its heritage-breed hogs locally to places such as the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown and also to restaurants from Winchester, Va., to Washington, D.C. 

"Most of our sales are so spread out, so we're hoping for more sales within our community," Johnson said. "We're trying to let folks know that they can buy local pork chops, bacon and sausage from us rather than us shipping our pigs off to faraway places."

Corum stresses that Morgan's Grove Market is just the first point of sale for its vendors. 

"We want them to sell to more people, to expand their reach into other markets," he said. "I don't believe we're in competition with anybody."

"We're all in support of a movement together," Corum said. "As a group we can make a big change down the road, and I really believe that."

Morgan's Grove Farm Market will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday starting May 3. 

To learn more about Morgan's Grove Market and for updates on its expansion, visit facebook.com/morgansgrovemarket.