Farmers Market Pro Tips, the SOJ edition

Some of our customers have been shopping at the South of the James Market since it’s first weeks. They often share tips that help them get the most out of their shopping trips. And we listen. Below is a list we’ve assembled along with some advice of our own. What would you add?

–Keep berries and cherry tomatoes from getting squished by putting them in a plastic container you bring from home. Dump the berries into your container, put the lid on and hand back the cardboard carton to the farmer to reuse.

blackberries container tupperware (1) (1280x960)

–When you get home – store fresh herbs like cilantro and basil on the counter in a jar of water — not in the refrigerator.

–Tag photos of your market bounty with #markethaul on social media. Use #sotj for the South of the James Market. It’s a fun way to share your market finds and to see what others have found.

–Farmers will reuse clean egg cartons so don’t throw them away. Return them. (Also ask vendors if they want back other clean packaging)

SOJ eggs

–You know to bring a market bag. But do you bring your own plastic bags too? If you have extra plastic bags in your house, bring them to the market to wrap around your frozen meat.

–When you stop to chat with friends, please be kind to the vendors by making sure you’re not blocking their tents.

–If your dog is at all uncomfortable in crowds, around other dogs or near children, leave her at home. If you do bring your dog, keep a tight leash on him. Make sure he doesn’t pee on vendor tents and always pick up after your pooch.

dogs at the farmers market

–Buy in bulk and buy seconds if available to get the best deals. A good time to ask about bulk deals is during peak season. Canning, freezing, dehyrading are just a few of the ways to preserve the harvest.

–Try something new each time you visit. You may be surprised at how much there is to love at the market.

–Be aware of market hours (8am – noon in summer season) and watch out for vendors pulling into their spots in the morning and leaving after noon. It is unsafe and against market rules to shop before the market opens.

–Keep an eye on your children. Please.


–Ask about custom orders. Many of the art vendors will gladly make something specifically for you.

Pay using your SNAP card. Visit the GrowRVA tent to buy tokens with your SNAP benefits. These tokens can be used to buy fresh produce, dairy, eggs, meat and plants.

–Eat with the season. Instead of finding a recipe and then looking for the ingredients, come to market and get inspired by what’s in season and then find a recipe. Ask the vendors for recipes and cooking tips too. They are great resources!

October at the Market (15)

–Start shopping now for a CSA for next year. Is there a farm you gravitate towards? Why not ask if they have a CSA subscription plan. (Community Supported Agriculture)

–Bring cash and ideally smaller bills. While many vendors do take credit, some do not and most do prefer cash. They have to pay a fee for every transaction using a credit card.

–Don’t let rain or snow stop you. The South of the James Market is open year round, rain or shine. We only close for dangerous weather. (Hint: there are often deals to be had during rainy weather.)

hurricane 2011

–Ask questions. If you want to know how they raise their sheep or what they spray on their plants or which ingredients they put in their bread, ask them!

–Bring a cooler bag or leave a cooler in your car to help keep cold items cold.

–Become a regular. Build relationships with vendors by shopping from your favorites as often as you can. Amazing friendships are born at the market!

shake the hand that feeds you Cabell & Linda

Market vendors are all small businesses that we at GrowRVA are trying to help grow. Your support is vital. Thank you!

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Meet Your Artisan: Balm of the Earth

Elizabeth and Elisha Somerville have been gaining fans at the South of the James Market this year with their homesteader herbal salve, Trailblazer Jewelweed Liniment (great for poison ivy!) and other natural skincare products. Read on for a little insight into how and why these savvy homesteaders created their company, Balm of the Earth.

Balm of the Earth

1. When and how did you get started?

- The inspiration for Balm of the Earth, which was started in August of 2012, stemmed from the scary realization of the amount of toxic chemicals found in most skin care products. At the time, we were expecting our first child, and we couldn’t stand the thought of putting conventional skin care products on his skin. This led to experimenting with many different recipes, until we made a moisturizer that we were SO satisfied with that we couldn’t keep it to ourselves! This was just the beginning of many all natural skin care solutions and of our career as a small business family.

2. When you’re not vending at the farmers market, what do you spend your time doing?

- Balm of the Earth currently attends 4 different farmers markets in the central Virginia region. When we are not vending at one of these markets, we spend our time farming and gardening, foraging wild, edible and medicinal herbs, making product, and hiking, all together as a family. Our toddler is always with us, learning about everything along the way!

homesteader in hand pic

3. Describe the process involved with creating one of your products.

- Homesteader Herbal Salve, Balm of the Earth’s best-selling product, involves a long, yet simple, process. We start by infusing Extra Virgin Olive oil and Virgin Coconut oil with dried Plantain leaf, Comfrey leaf, Calendula, Echinacea, and Chickweed. We let the oils infuse for a minimum of 24 hours, after which the oil in strained and measured into another jar, along with a specific ratio of organic beeswax. The oils and beeswax are then heated until they are liquid, at which point we add Lavender essential oil and Vitamin E oil, give it all a stir, and then pour the liquid salve into our tins and tubes. As the salve cools, it solidifies, and is then packaged and ready for the market!

4. What three words would you use to describe your products?

- Safe, pure, and effective.

5. Where do you get your ingredients?

- All of the oils that we use in our base ingredients in various recipes are food grade, organic, cold-pressed (from the first pressing), unrefined, and either extra virgin or virgin, where applicable. We buy most of our ingredients online, through smaller (usually family owned) companies, and are making conscious efforts to source our ingredients as locally/fair trade as possible. The strict standards that we hold ourselves to ensures that the ingredients in our products are the highest quality, most pure oils that the world has to offer, following our philosophy that one should only put on their skin what would be pure enough to consume.

Balm of the Earth 2

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Meet Your Artisan: Flower Child

Goochland-based Flower Child specializes in (extremely popular!) small-batch granola, baked goods and handmade, organic soap and body care. Owner Tonia Wyatt took a few minutes away from baking to share a little more about herself and her business.

Flower Child granola July 2014 South of the James

–When & how did you get started?

My whole life I have always had my hand in something creative. After having children, I decided to home school them which gave me more time to try new things. John and I have been making Granola for about 9 years now. We would give our Granola to family as Christmas gifts and everyone loved it! Flower Child was “created” about 2 years ago after hearing about farmer’s markets here in Richmond.

–When you’re not vending at the market, what do you spend your time doing?

My life is like a giant canvas! I get bored very easily so I am always doing new things. I spend my days with my 2 youngest kids, Savannah and Johnathan. We play a lot and spend time outside gardening. I make soap in the afternoons between cleaning and doing laundry. I bake, watch movies and spend a lot of time dreaming up new ideas!

–What type of work did you do before becoming a vendor?

Years ago before John and I were married, I was a nail technician at The Sanderling Spa in the Outer Banks. We lived there for about 10 years. Since our son Johnathan was born in 2003, I have been a stay at home mom.

–What are your greatest challenges with your business?

The greatest challenge for my business is making enough Granola!!! Sounds silly I know, but our Granola has become so popular that I find us selling out at the market!

–What 3 words would you use to describe your products?

Eclectic, Comfort, Natural

You can keep up with Flower Child on Facebook

Flower Child granola

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GrowRVA Weekend Update

It’s another weekend of fun in RVA!

TONIGHT: First Fridays – New Location!

Due to last week’s holiday, we’re celebrating First Fridays on a Second Friday. We’re also making one more change …. Our Market at First Fridays is moving down the road to New Normal Apparel at the corner of East Clay & North Third Streets. We’ll still have our wonderful group of food and art vendors — the only thing we are changing is the location and it’s only a short walk away. With us tonight will be:

Boka Tako Truck, Flower Child, Gelati Celesti Ice Cream, King of Pops,
Mosaic, Phal’s Spring Rolls, RVA Vegan

Bon Air Naturals, Flood Factory, Jewelry by Leann & Teresa, MA’s Madhouse,
New Normal Apparel, Red Lintu, Sirius Jewelry, The Henna Lady, Wandering Cow Farm

Market at First Fridays

SATURDAY: South of the James Market

8 AM – Noon:  Peaches, watermelon, corn, tomatoes and so much more! Below is a map of the vendors we expect to see this Saturday. (spots are subject to change)

South of the James Market


SATURDAY: Midlothian Mines Farmers Market

1 PM – 4PM: At our Midlothian Market we’ll have produce, meat, baked goods, soap and jewelry from these fine local businesses: C Glass Creations, Flower Child, Real Country Sausage, Red Lintu, Walnut Hill Farm, Wandering Cow Farm and Whispering Winds Farm. Stop in to Urban Farmhouse Market and Cafe for more tasty treats!

watermelon walnut hill farm

SUNDAY: Music in the Park

6PM – 8PM: Music in the Park welcomes the Granddaddies of RVA Blues – L’il Ronnie and the Grand Dukes! It should be a Down Home Blast! So pack a picnic and bring friends and family to Forest Hill Park. You don’t want to miss this free family fun!

grand dukes

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A Farmer’s Life – Still Life Competition

Saturday, you may have seen RVA Has Talent’s Still Life Competition underway at the South of the James Market.

RVA Has Talent (3)

This RVA Has Talent contest aims to bring together Richmond’s visual artists, nonprofits & market vendors through a community-wide campaign that embraces the local arts & farmers.

Every Thursday in July at the Short Pump Town Center Farmers Market & Saturdays in July and August at the South of the James Market, artists will paint items from market vendors. Winners in each round will be determined by your votes with the First Place Artist in the final round receiving $500 to paint Nacho Mama’s store front in Carytown and a fundraiser for their charitable sponsor. (Artist – $300 & Charitable Sponsor – $200) The artist will also be featured in GRID Magazine.

Artists! There is still time to enter. Head on over to for the details!

rva has talent still life competition


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Meet Your Artisan: Dixie Pots Clayworks

Potter Tamurlaine Dixie McLean Melby of Dixie Pots Clayworks joins us tomorrow at the South of the James Market. She creates functional, hand-thrown pieces for everyday use. She works to make each piece unique and eye-catching through a combination of techniques, including form-altering, slip-trailing, hand-painting and carving.

Dixie Pots

When and how did you get started?
I began taking pottery classes at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond five years ago, as a hobby and a way to reduce stress. It’s a great studio with awesome instructors who encouraged me to look for places to sell my work, which I started doing this year.

Dixie Pots Tamurlaine (2)

When you’re not vending at the farmers market, what do you spend your time doing?
I spend a lot of time in the studio making pottery, but I’m also a freelance editor, so the rest of my week I’m working on a computer editing books and articles for several publishers/sites. When I’m not doing either of those things, I enjoy oil painting, cooking, writing, reading, yoga, porch-sitting with friends, and stalking Craigslist for antique furniture.

What type of work did you do before becoming a vendor?
Since college, I’ve waited tables and worked as a barista and in retail, but for the past six years I’ve worked as an editor and project manager with a small book publisher here in town, and I’ve branched out to do editing for other companies as well.

Dixie Pots photo from Tamurlaine Melby

What’s something about your business that people might find surprising?
The name “Dixie” in “Dixie Pots” isn’t just a nod to the region–it’s the name my grandmother went by her whole life because she hated her given name (Frances) and had a soft spot for the South. When I was born, I was almost named Dixie, but my parents decided at the last minute to name me after a murderous Mongolian warlord instead, so Dixie is my middle name.

What three words would you use to describe your products?
Pretty, functional, detailed.

Tamurlaine D. M. Melby
Dixie Pots Clayworks

Dixie Pots Tamurlaine (1)

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Get a True Taste of Summer at the Midlothian Mines Farmers Market

Celebrate the official first day of summer this Saturday at a place where Virginia’s summer bounty is officially on display … a local farmers market!

Midlothian Mines Farmers Market June 2014

Midlothian residents don’t have to travel far for farm fresh food. GrowRVA’s Midlothian Mines Farmers Market sets up every Saturday afternoon May – December between 1pm and 4pm in the Millworks Development, near the corner of N. Woolridge Road and Coalfield Road. Conveniently located near the Midlothian Library and the Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, the market is an easy stop along the way. “Grab your market bag and pick up your weekly dose of Virginia grown,” says GrowRVA’s Karen Atkinson. “Shopping local not only feeds your family fresh, nutritious food but it also supports our local farmers and their families which in turn strengthens our local economy.”

Carrots & Beets from Walnut Hill Farm

Carrots & Beets from Walnut Hill Farm

In its third season, the market is anchored by full time vendors Walnut Hill Produce, Real Country Sausage, Barham Seafood, Wandering Cow Farm, Red Lintu, C Glass Creations and the GrowRVA Farm Stand.

GrowRVA Midlothian Mines Farmers Market 2014 007

Barham Seafood

GrowRVA Midlothian Mines Farmers Market 2014 012

Real Country Sausage

Red Lintu

Red Lintu

Adding to the interest each week is a rotating group of part time vendors including Mrs Yoder’s Kitchen, Gelati Celesti Ice Cream, A Wonderful Soap, Sirius Jewelry, Balm of the Earth, Poor Georgies Bake Shoppe and Cup Cakery, Belinda Early Jewelry, One Rare Lily, Sweet Temptations by Teresa, Whispering Winds Farm and others.

Midlothian Mines Farmers Market
Saturdays, 1pm – 4pm
Through December 6, 2014
13849 Coalfield Commons Place, Midlothian, VA 23114

 We encourage local small businesses interested in vending at this market to apply!

Soap from Wandering Cow Farm

Soap from Wandering Cow Farm

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