Let's Get Fresh: Portrait of the Market as a Young Canopy Tent

By Bob Workman on June 14, 2015
Connect Bridgeport

Why is the Market on Sunday? Why is the Market at Charles Pointe? How did the Market come to be in the first place? Over the past few weeks I've been asked all of these questions a number of times, mostly by folks new to the Market. Some of this curiosity is no doubt a result of recent local newspaper headlines concerning a future permanent structure for the Market to be constructed at Charles Pointe. Since no one from the Market was interviewed for the newspaper articles I thought it would be a good idea to explain ourselves by updating and re-running the inaugural Let's Get Fresh post from opening day 2013. I think it answers all of the above questions and more.

The Bridgeport Farmers Market, like so many of mankind's greatest ideas down thru the millennia, had its genesis in a bar. Back in the day (2007 and 2008 to be exact) a small but loyal group of patrons would gather around this bar most Friday nights to partake of the fruit of the vine and discuss the important topics of the day. Usually this revolved around that night's entree special and which wine would go best with it, oh, and sometimes the appetizer special was discussed as well. Anyway, I digress.

One evening the topic of conversation centered on a particular ingredient being used in that night's special and the source of said ingredient which, as luck would have it for our story, happened to be a local farmer. One thing led to another and eventually the proprietress was called out from the kitchen to explain to the patrons exactly where in Harrison County this farm was located. It was at this point that one of the patrons exclaimed, "Wouldn't it be great if everyone in Bridgeport was able to purchase Farmer Brown's vegetables!"

From this point forward for the next two years most Friday night conversations at the bar eventually wound their way around to the topic of starting a market in Bridgeport that would sell and promote local foods.

So, one late night in early 2009 it was decided to quit talking about it and just do it. A committee was formed which immediately went to work writing by-laws, searching for the proper location, contacting potential vendors, fund-raising, etc. After meetings with local officials (mayor, city council members, CVB personnel, etc.) it was decided that a good starting location would be somewhere near the city's schools.

The founders also decided that their market would be a self-sustaining market that would not charge any fees to the vendors. This also meant the market would be dependent on the financial support of the local citizenry.

After much research into other local farmers' markets it was also decided, for several reasons, that the best day for the market would be Sunday. First, the founders wanted a weekend market for obvious reasons and, secondly, most of the vendors that had been contacted at that point were already attending markets on Fridays and Saturdays.

Another early decision was that each week there would be live music at the market to be provided by local musicians. In addition to all of these decisions, the founders made it the Market's main mission to promote and support the local foods movement in West Virginia. All of the reasons for why this is important will be discussed in a future blog but in general they encompass health, economic, and environmental issues.

So, one sunny Sunday in July, 2009, the Bridgeport Farmers Market held its inaugural selling day in front of Bridgeport High School. With seven vendors set up and selling their wares under colorful canopies provided by the now official Bridgeport Farmers Market Association it was quite an inauspicious start. There was a wide variety of local produce, meats, vegetable plants, flowers and value-added products to choose from. Mayor at the time Jim Christie was on hand to perform the ribbon cutting along with the Queen of the Benedum Festival.

Of those seven original vendors four are still present at the Market today, Gardner Farm, Dave's Greenhouse, Shipley's Forest Hill Farm, and Hawthorne Valley Farm. The Market owes a huge debt of gratitude to the loyalty of the following folks who own these farms: Larry and Becky Gardner, Dave Reynolds, Randall and Barb Shipley, and Frank and Liz Abbruzino.

Also there was a children's activities tent that featured Squash Car Racing! Just as the name implies, the kids got to make race cars out of a vegetable that most of them would never eat in a million years! It was quite a wonderful way to get off the ground but it was only the end of the beginning for the BFM.

The next four seasons saw the Market fulfill the founders' mission by becoming a destination for folks from not only Bridgeport but also the surrounding region. For many the Market has become a "first-stop" shopping destination as they plan the coming week's meals. And, as it has continued to grow and introduce exciting new vendors and their products and services to Bridgeport, the Bridgeport Farmers Market is proud to have become a "community within a community".

The Market's fourth season in 2012 saw its biggest change to date. One of the original ideas the founders had for the future was to eventually build a permanent structure somewhere in Bridgeport to house the Market. For this reason, and as there would likely be no space available for a permanent structure near the Bridgeport schools, it was decided to move the Market to a new location in the expanding Charles Pointe development. This was not a decision that was taken lightly.

Now, from the very beginning of the Market in 2009 both Jamie Corton and his staff at Genesis Partners, the developers of Charles Pointe, and Scott Duarte and his staff at the Bridgeport Conference Center have been very supportive of the Market and the whole local foods movement the Market has been promoting. Still, the Market's board of directors agonized for months over whether to take Mr. Corton up on his offer of space in the new development. In the end, the idea of a future permanent home for the Market won out and the move was made.

Throughout all of this discussion it also became clear that with the move a mutually beneficial partnership could be established between the Market and the Conference Center. One idea that has come to fruition from that partnership is the monthly Winter Market inside the Conference Center. This extension of the Bridgeport Farmers Market takes place the second Sunday of each month during the regular Market's off-seaon, November to April, and is held in conjunction with the Conference Center's monthly Sunday Brunch.

This was where the original blog left off. Looking back at this now I realize that, in terms of both the number of vendors and the sales numbers, the Market has more than doubled in size since I originally wrote this piece two years ago. That fact, to this observer anyway, is truly remarkable. After having read this blog I hope you will agree.

The history from that point at the beginning of the fifth season in 2013 up to now is a topic for another blog. There is so much to revisit that if I were to write about it here the good folks at Connect-Bridgeport would kick me off the site for blog bloat!

Come by this week and check out Greg Gregory as he returns to our Music Tent. Greg is an accomplished singer/guitarist who specializes in classic rock and country.

And scheduled to appear under the Chef's Demo tent this week is Chef MK Ohlinger. MK is one of the most popular chefs in WV and puts on a demo that rivals a Ramones concert for entertainment value and sheer energy. Don't miss it starting at noon!

Until next week, Stay Fresh!

The Bridgeport Farmers Market Association is the seven member all volunteer board of directors that governs the Bridgeport Farmers Market. It is supported by a wonderful group of community volunteers who help in the setup and maintenance of the market. For more information on the Farmers Market or to see how you can help please e-mail us at bridgeportfarmersmarket@yahoo.com or, better yet, LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on both Twitter and Instagram. You can also check out the Market's own YouTube channel: or for more BFM video content you can now go to Go here to see all of the entries in the Let's Get Fresh blog: