News From PEC

Buy Fresh Buy Local and Making Connections

Since 2006, PEC’s Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters have provided free marketing opportunities for local farmers through our annual guides and have connected multitudes of families to the fresh, local products grown and raised in the Piedmont. In 2018, PEC staff conducted interviews and focus groups with our Buy Fresh Buy Local partners and released local food producer and community surveys to identify barriers within the Piedmont’s local food system. These surveys help inform how PEC’s programming can tackle those barriers and create opportunities to strengthen local agriculture around the region

More than a third of our partners responded that the guide provides significant promotion for their products. Many also cited one of the consistent challenges as advertising products and expanding their product buyer base. Issues with pricing, finding time to develop new market relationships and connect with community members hinder farmers’ ability to grow or fully establish their business.

Our surveys gleaned information on how consumers use the annual Buy Fresh Buy Local guide and their local food purchasing habits. Most consumers received their guide in the mail (57%) and are using it to find area farmers markets and restaurants and retailers that use local products. When asked what would encourage them to purchase more local food, it came down to convenience and information.

PEC has taken this information to develop events and programming to fill in these marketing gaps. We have hosted local food showcases, buyer and seller mixers that allow local producers to connect with a range of buyers—from small café owners to public school food service directors and national grocery chain produce buyers.

In the spring of 2019, PEC launched the refreshed BuyLocalVirginia.org website that will provide a much needed online presence for our chapter partners.

New Digital Collaboration

Piedmont Environmental Council logo

Virginia Cooperative Extension Logo

Market Maker Logo

To enhance this online hub for local food information, PEC is excited to announce our partnership with Virginia Tech and MarketMaker. MarketMaker is nationwide and centers around a virtual information-sharing platform that brings fresh and local food to consumers. PEC’s well-known and growing Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters bring an already established network of local food producers, while MarketMaker provides online market connections that will strengthen local food market purchasing.

This collaboration targets local food producers (i.e. farmers, value-added producers, specialty beverage makers) and local food buyers (i.e. chefs, grocery store managers, institutional food service directors, wholesalers, aggregators and distributors). Through this partnership, PEC is supporting development of a streamlined, centralized state-wide local food inventory that provides food producers and buyers access to Buy Fresh Buy Local branding, Virginia Grown branding and the MarketMaker online connection platform all within the same database.

Promoting Piedmont Agriculture

Five organizations in the Piedmont region are working together to support targeted local food marketing efforts through a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant.

Culpeper Downtown Farmers’ Market

The Culpeper Downtown Farmers Market continued to build on the success of the FMPP grant for the 2018 season. New marketing efforts to better inform the public of the Grand Opening Celebration of the market led to one of the most well attended days in the market’s decades long history.

Promotional efforts supported special events programming like various customer appreciation days, children’s nutritional cooking classes and a National Farmers Market week celebration. Increased advertising of the market through signage, posters, postcards, informative vendor and special event guides, traditional print and social media have been key to maintaining a strong customer base while also reaching new market attendees.

The Market’s ability to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits was promoted throughout all marketing material which resulted in a doubling of SNAP usage during the 2018 market season from the previous year.

Madison Farmers’ Market

Madison Farmers' Market logo

Madison Farmers’ Market is excited about the upcoming year. Some changes in Virginia laws allow more flexibility in what we can sell. We are also looking forward to having some breakfast type items, homemade bone broths and more.

We are opening an online store! Visit it at www.localline.ca/madison-fresh-market

The website can take pre-orders with Saturday pick ups in Madison or Monday afternoon pick ups in Culpeper. We specialize in bringing you fresh, local food by farmers who know you by name!

The Piedmont Environmental Council

Piedmont Environmental Council logo

The Piedmont Environmental Council’s Buy Fresh Buy Local program has used the FMPP grant funds to design, print and direct mail the annual Northern Piedmont guide to over 75,000 households in the region. The grant also covered the Farm to Table Showcase in the fall of 2018. This event was an opportunity for local producers to set up tables with their products and meet a wide-range of buyers with the intent of helping develop market connections.

This year, we are excited for the final event of this grant! The Flavor of the Piedmont will take place at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton on September 8, 2019. This day starts with a local food buyer-seller event and ends with a local food tasting that is open to the public. Visit www.pecva.org/events for more information and tickets!

Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission

Purely Piedmont logo

The Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission continues its “Purely Piedmont” marketing campaign to promote the region’s locally-grown foods and beverages. Look for their booth at local festivals, billboards proclaiming “Local Tastes Better,” and commercials airing on Comcast this summer.

The Purely Piedmont regional label program is entering its second year. Similar to the state’s Virginia Grown program, producers who register their products with the program will receive free labels with the Purely Piedmont logo to affix to their products, in addition to digital versions of the logo to incorporate into their own marketing materials.

Keep an eye out for the Purely Piedmont label at local markets, verifying the product was grown in Virginia’s Northern Piedmont. Visit www.purelypiedmont.com for more information.

‘Tween Rivers Trail

'Tween Rivers Trail logo

The ‘Tween Rivers Trail has continued to support and expand its efforts in marketing to potential customers, both in- and outside our region, as well as growing the number Trail member locations. Free workshops are offered quarterly on topics designed to support agri-tourism businesses and provide networking opportunities with other Trail members. A quarterly newsletter for the Trail allows the Trail members to learn more about one another as well as any important information and upcoming events or workshops. Trail member interviews continue to allow us to understand how each business functions and the best ways to support Trail members. Since the grant award, the ‘Tween Rivers Trail has grown to 85 Trail locations! Learn more at www.tweenriverstrail.com

PATH Foundation

In line with Buy Fresh, Buy Local’s initiatives to connect consumers with healthy, local products, the PATH Foundation is proud to fund Commit to Be Fit and Fauquier Reaches for Excellence in School Health — two programs that enhance nutrition, physical activity and overall health in Fauquier and Rappahannock public schools. Both programs are tailored to the needs of their students and communities.

FRESH

Fauquier Reaches for Excellence in School Health, otherwise known as FRESH, is an innovative program bringing a culture of health and wellness to Fauquier County Public Schools. FRESH engages 20 schools in a wide variety of initiatives, such as increasing physical activity in classrooms, providing new recipes and training to cafeteria workers, and creating after-school clubs that focus on fitness, nutrition and wellness. With over 2,600 student participants, and their sights set on increasing the program’s scope and outreach, FRESH continues to support and promote health in Fauquier County.

Commit To Be Fit

Commit to Be Fit is focused on improving health and wellness in Rappahannock County through community engagement and school initiatives. In two years, the program has offered more than 450 community workshops on topics like eating healthy on a budget and injury prevention, as well as one-on-one health coaching. In Rappahannock County Public Schools, Commit to Be Fit has improved nutrition by introducing salad bars, horticulture class produce and other new menu items to school cafeterias. Commit to Be Fit remains a pioneering and useful resource for Rappahannock County residents of all ages.

For more information, please visit www.pathforyou.org

Time to plant your garden!

Order seeds through Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and support The Piedmont Environmental Council. Thirty percent of the proceeds go to our Buy Fresh Buy Local program when you purchase these seed packages:

Welcome to the Garden Pollinator Collection

Welcome-to-the-Garden Pollinator Collection

Support your pollinators with this special collection of 12 old-fashioned single-blossomed heirloom, open-pollinated flowers and herbs.

Virginia Heritage Seed Collection

A specially priced collection of 12 varieties rich in flavor and history, all associated with Virginia and the Appalachians.

Visit their website at www.southernexposure.com

Piedmont Beef Study

Piedmont Beef Study

By Kristen Markley with Health Care Without Harm and Jessica Palmer with Piedmont Environmental Council

Over the course of 2019, Health Care Without Harm and The Piedmont Environmental Council will be working together on a project to assess market access for sustainably produced Virginia Piedmont beef.

To get started, Health Care Without Harm will conduct an assessment of the institutional demand for the product. The assessment will focus on the collection of information from hospitals, colleges, and universities in Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia.

Meanwhile, PEC will conduct a supply-side assessment to provide an in-depth look at current and potential beef-sector production and gauge farmer capacity for expansion and interest in selling to a captive wholesale market. The study will span the area from around Charlottesville to Loudoun County.

When paired together, the projects will highlight possibilities for institutional purchasing programs and possibly provide a pathway to expand and support Piedmont beef sector businesses. If you are a beef producer in the Piedmont region, please consider taking PEC’s survey: https://www.pecva.org/beef.

Let There Be Fruits & Veggies

Let There Be Fruits & Veggies

By Paula Combs

Food brings people together. But healthy food is sometimes hard to come by. Despite Loudoun County’s reputation as a wealthy community, a surprising number of children in the county live in households with limited access to healthy food. The consequences can be stark for these children, as their development, ability to learn and overall health is directly related to the quality of their diet.

The Piedmont Environmental Council’s Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows was founded with two ideas in mind: to connect residents to Loudoun’s vital agricultural economy and to provide locally grown fruits and vegetables for its food-insecure families.

Now, it is time for those ideas to blossom, or rather… to be planted.

Starting this spring, the northwest corner of Roundabout Meadows will be the hub of activity. We have eight acres surrounded with deer fencing, and on approximately two of those acres, PEC’s community farm manager, Dana Melby, will work with volunteers to begin planting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, radishes, beets, turnips and collards, from mid-March to the beginning of April. Then, after the last frost, crops such as tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, green beans, summer squash, watermelon and cantaloupe will be added.

“We will also be implementing cover crops to help improve our soil quality and increase the soil’s nutrition,” Dana explains. “Cover crops improve soil health, as well as attract pollinators and beneficial insects. They also help reclaim land that was previously fallow, allowing it to go back into production.”

The fruit and vegetable crops at the Community Farm were selected with the help of our partner, Loudoun Hunger Relief (LHR), who identified the needs of the local community.

Feeding America reports that approximately 13,390 Loudoun County residents live in food-insecure households, defined by a chronic lack of access to sufficient nutritious food, in 2018. LHR serves many individuals and families in need, including over 1,000 families living without permanent shelter in the county. Nearly half of the people LHR helps are children who lack sufficient, nutritious food. To date, over one million meals have been distributed through the organization!

To address food insecurity and combat high rates of child obesity, diabetes and hypertension, local anti-hunger efforts are increasingly focusing on providing more produce. PEC plans to donate 100 percent of the Community Farm’s fruits and vegetables to LHR and other food pantries in the county.


“With the tremendous help of our volunteers, we will be able to deliver fresh food to those who need it most.”

Dana Melby, PEC Community Farm Manager

“Loudoun Hunger Relief is thrilled to be partnering with the Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows. Produce is so important to good health and farm fresh produce is even better. We’re excited to provide locally grown, fresh produce to our neighbors in need,” says Jennifer Montgomery, Executive Director of Loudoun Hunger Relief.

The Community Farm will engage volunteers to help produce local food, which will have a meaningful impact on healthy food access in Loudoun. The long-term goal is to scale up production and volunteer programming over the next 5 years.

“I’m so excited for all that is to come this growing season,” says Dana. “With the tremendous help of our volunteers, we will be able to deliver fresh food to those who need it most.”


Interested in Volunteering at PEC’s Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows?

Help us with planting and harvesting healthy food for Loudoun residents in need! Previous experience is welcomed but not required, as on-site training will be provided.

Be prepared to work outside in variable weather conditions, get your hands dirty while doing a good deed, and learn about your local agriculture community. All ages are welcome, but children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Check the calendar on our website for upcoming volunteer opportunities and events.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact PEC’s Community Farm manager, Dana Melby, at [email protected] or (540) 347-2334 ext. 7068, or visit https://www.pecva.org/farm