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Brooke, Hancock farmers markets returning

Area residents have an opportunity to purchase locally produced food and other products at farmers markets in Brooke and Hancock counties.

The Brooke County Farmers Market returned last week at a new location: the parking lot of the Dollar General Market at the intersection of state Route 2 and Cross Creek Road.

Britney Hervey Farris, its coordinator, said a decision was made to replace farmers markets held on alternating weeks in Follansbee and Wellsburg at a site between them.

The market will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Wednesday.

The Hancock County Farmers Market is set to return on July 6 to the parking lot of the Goodwill Thrift Store on Penco Road in Weirton.

It will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Monday.

The farmers markets are coordinated through the Brooke and Hancock county offices of the West Virginia Extension Service.

Farris said the pandemic has spurred some precautions, with vendors donning masks and gloves and posting glass screens and taking other measures to deter visitors from touching the produce.

“Unfortunately we’re not allowing sampling this year,” she added.

Farris said visitors to the market are encouraged, but not required, to wear masks, while the state Department of Agriculture has recommended that vendors encourage pre-ordering “to make it a grab and go operation as much as possible.”

Potential buyers may find contact information for vendors at the Brooke County Farmers Market’s Facebook page, though walk-ups are welcome.

Vendors and customers at the Hancock County Farmers Market are encouraged, but not required, to wear masks.

Social distancing will be stressed, with vendors expected to occupy space at least 10 feet apart from each other and customers asked to approach each vendor one at a time.

Organizers of both said while COVID-19 has changed slightly the way vendors will be doing business, it won’t affect the variety and quality of their product.

Becky Wiegers, office assistant at the Hancock County WVU Extension office, said for many, “it’s reassuring to know what they purchase is grown locally.”

In recent years the markets have expanded to include specialty foods, from jellies and relishes to popcorn and locally grown meats, and assorted hand-made arts and crafts.

All items sold at the Brooke market must be produced within a 75 mile radius and those sold at the Hancock market must be produced with a 50 mile radius.

Interested vendors should call (304) 737-3666 for the Brooke market and (304) 564-3805 for the Hancock market.

Many vendors on hand Wednesday, the opening day of the Brooke County market, reported great sales.

Ruth Brown of Ruth’s Pets and Plants, a founding member of the market, said she sold 18 pies within the first 90 minutes “so next week I’ll have to bring more pies, but that’s a nice problem to have.”

In addition to assorted baked goods, Brown brought green tomatoes, baby peppers and garlic scapes, which are the stem and flower of a garlic plant.

“They can be used in anything you would put garlic in. I like them with fried potatoes,” she said, adding many people appreciate their mild flavor.

Brown noted they also may be chopped up and frozen for use in winter.

It also was a good day for Nancy Blake of N.J.’s Kettle Corn of Glen Dale, W.Va., who sold all 27 bags of original or caramel flavored popcorn she brought. She also planned to bring more product next time.

Blake, who also sells other flavors, said she pops the corn on the night before or the day of the market.

A retired flight attendant and self-described people person, she said she was pleased to see return customers from last summer.

Of participating in the market and others, Blake said, “I love it. I have a ball doing it.”

Also on hand were Eric and Brianna Blend of Blended Homestead of Wheeling, who sell produce, sweet bread, dried basil, eggs and poultry, including breasts, wings, drumsticks, gizzards and hearts as well as ground meat.

“Our chickens live outside 365 days of the year and the meat is USDA approved, just like in the store,” said Eric, who added the pair also sell pork later in the year.

Kim Decker of Avella, Pa. was selling a variety of jams, jellies, relishes and apple butter.

Asked the most frequent question from her customers, she said, “Do you really make all of it? Yes, I do.”

Decker said farmers markets not only provide a venue for her sales, they also connect her to farmers who supply produce for her products.

“It helps me and it helps them,” she said.

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