Spring Has Sprung at Public Market
By SCOTT McCLOSKEY
For The Times Leader
WHEELING — As pandemic safety restrictions ease, excitement is building at downtown Wheeling’s Public Market with the spring growing season ramping up.
Jodi Adams, general manager of the Public Market said she and her employees are seeing more and more people not only shop at the market for local produce, but also meet in small groups for coffee or a meal at some of their dining areas set up around the Public Market Kitchen or the facility’s front lobby.
“The capacity for restaurants and business has opened up a bit, so we’re starting to see more people meet here and have coffee here,” Adams said.
In addition to more people heading to the market’s breakfast and lunch counter, Adams said this is the time of the year where they begin seeing more local farmers bringing in a wider variety of produce.
“We have a lot of (varieties) of lettuce coming out now,” Adams said. “This is when lettuce is at its peak.”
The market currently has a variety of greens, including spinach, microgreens, pea shoots and mushrooms. Catherine Schnur, an Americorps Vista who works directly with the Public Market, said in the coming weeks local farmers will deliver more and more greens and other produce like ramps, edible flowers and asparagus.
Schnur is responsible for coordinating deliveries and pricing with local farmers. She said they are currently working with about eight local farmers and that number will grow to about a dozen at the peak of the summer season.
Adams said once the mid-summer growing season arrives, the market will experience its peak for business with local farmers, as items like cucumbers, tomatoes, and corn will begin rolling in.
“And then it comes fast and furious,” Adams said. “Midsummer, when we see this (market) all full and bountiful, it’s awesome.
“And for me personally, I don’t eat a ton of tomatoes in the winter,” she added. “I eat so many of them in the summer because they are just a completely different favor.”
Adams said the Public Market offers a good collaboration and support system for local farmers to sell their produce throughout the year. She said local farmers are also currently planting seeds for “starter plants” to be sold at the market beginning in May. “We also have free seeds right now (compliments of Grow Ohio Valley) for anyone who wants to come in and do starters on their own,” she added.
Grow Ohio Valley Executive Director Danny Swan said it is an exciting time of the year for both the Public Market and Grow Ohio Valley as more people are getting out and about.
“We’re going to be having produce, especially and all kinds of farm products, just rolling out in abundance,” Swan explained.
While Grow Ohio Valley is the parent company for the Public Market, Swan is quick to point out the market is a sales outlet for all farmers of the valley. He said Grow Ohio Valley just tries to fill the void of products the Public Market doesn’t receive from local farmers. Grow Ohio Valley has been using high tunnel greenhouses to grow produce for the market through the winter months, and Swan said they will be moving to several outdoor fields in April.
“The traffic — both vendors and customers — really starts to pick up in the month of April,” Swan explained. “We’ll have farmers in here all the time stocking shelves with the stuff they are harvesting that morning, and in response customers get really excited and we end up really being able to feed our community.
“That’s the beauty of the local food system,” he continued. “You don’t have to pick stuff three weeks in advance because it’s coming from 3,000 miles away and has to be stored in a truck and shipped. You can just put it in a delivery van and drive a couple of miles down the road to the public market and drop it off for sale. “
Swan said sales are, “as much as possible,” is returned directly to the local farmers.
“We just retain a commission in order to keep the lights on,” he explained. “It’s really an economic development tool for the local agricultural sector.”
Swan also wanted to remind the community that anything purchased with food stamps is priced half off at the market.
“We would just like to get the word out, because there are a lot of struggling families right now,” he said.