Farmer's market season kicks off on Peninsula

There's a bit of a shake-up in the farmer's market scene on the Peninsula this year. Port Warwick's mid-week market in Newport News has been canceled, and a new market will debut at Hampton's Peninsula Town Center.

Farmer's markets have exploded nationwide, experiencing a 150 percent increase in the past decade, and a nearly 10 percent increase from 2011 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Virginia, with 277 markets, is one of the Top 10 U.S. states for the number of farmer's markets, the report says.

As spring begins — cold as it may be this year — markets across the Peninsula open to provide residents with fresh fruits, vegetables, artisan crafts and fresh flowers.

Jessica Johns, of Newport News, says shoppers should take advantage of having access to the farmer.

"Talk to the people selling it to you," she says. "They always give great tips about what to look for and suggestions on what to do with (the food). Plus, knowing more about where your food comes from makes it taste better to us. Being able to ask the farmers about the fruits and veggies gets my kids to eat more of them."

Instead of shopping with a specific list, Martha Grondin also of Newport News, says she makes purchases based on "what looks good."

"I always try to go with an open mind," she says.

Kelly Schulte says she often shops at the Williamsburg Market on Saturday mornings.

"I always push around the 'belly button' of a cantaloupe," she says. "If it's just a little squishy, it is ripe and sweet."

Here's the lineup of local markets open this spring.

Smithfield Farmers' Market

In its eleventh season, the Smithfield market features pork and peanuts, just as one would suspect. Shoppers also will find locally grown produce, cheese, plants, herbs, baked goods, coffee, barbecue, honey, wood-fired pizza and crafts.

Live music is a staple at this market, as well as a small petting zoo. Pets are welcome.

The market, which takes place on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, opened for the season on March 23. It will continue through October.

The market is located on Main Street in downtown Smithfield, in the parking lot behind Bank of Southside Virginia.

More information: smithfieldfarmersmarket.org.

Peninsula Town Center

Although all of the details for the new market are not yet known, a Peninsula Town Center spokeswoman says the market will take place between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. every Sunday beginning May 5.

"Between 14 and 20 local farmers will sell produce, flowers, baked goods, cheeses, seafood, fresh breads, jams, peanuts and more each week," says Ashley Martin, a spokeswoman for the center. "As far as we're aware, this is the only farmer's market in Hampton Roads that takes place on Sundays."