New farmer's market launches at Marina Bay Park

New farmer's market launches at Marina Bay Park
The new farmer's market at Marina Bay Park Sunday, April 7, 2024. Photos/ Soren Hemmila

On a sunny Sunday, crowds of happy, smiling people turned up at Marina Bay Park for the launch of Richmond’s second Certified Farmer’s Market location.

The inaugural Marina Bay Farmer's Market, held in the parking lot near Regatta Boulevard and Melville Square, got off to a terrific start and will continue every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market offers fresh produce, healthy products, prepared foods, as well as music, story time, and activities for families.

Tom Cloman, President of the Richmond Certified Farmer's Market Association, said the additional market wouldn’t have happened without the City of Richmond’s coordination and support.

The market vendors are committed to bringing food directly from their farms to the city’s residents, and some have been part of the Richmond farmer's market for more than 30 years, Cloman said.

“We have a culture that has developed where our customers get to know who the farmers are, and our farmers get to know the customers. We call it generational development around becoming healthier,” Cloman said Sunday.

March and April are always a little slow for the market, according to Cloman, who also runs the Friday Civic Center Farmer’s Market. By the middle of April, visitors can expect to see many more varieties and product selections.

“Remember this is March-April; the new crops for this period were just planted recently,” Cloman said. “The products that you will see throughout the year are still in the fields. Some of the farmers are bogged down; it is muddy, and they can’t get into the fields to pick.”

Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin, representing District 5, where Marina Bay Park is located, said the idea of the market came from residents concerned about the limited availability of healthy food options in the Marina Bay area.
“A few years ago, a young couple from Marina Bay came to me and said,’ We really need more healthy food around the Marina Bay area. ‘What can you do as our district representative?’” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said she brought up an item to explore a farmer's market in the Marina Bay area, but the project didn’t start moving until Councilmember Doria Robinson joined the council.

McLaughlin said Robinson serves as a council member and is also the Executive Director at Urban Tilth, Richmond’s leading urban agriculture organization.

“So we formed a partnership—it was me, Doria, Urban Tilth, city staff, Tom Cloman and his staff, and the harbormaster,” McLaughlin said. We had so much support from the Marina Bay Neighborhood Council, the Marina Bay Landscaping and Lighting District, and the community as a whole.”

District 3 Councilmember Doria Robinson said everyone involved is committed to bringing diverse kinds of produce from different cultures and to always offering organic produce at the market.

“This is beautiful. This is what we want, right?” Robinson said. There is no reason why we have to suffer from not having access to the things that we need, like healthy food, in any neighborhood in Richmond.”

Robinson said the food at Sunday’s market was probably harvested within a day or so before ending up on residents’ plates.

“You’ll feel really good when you buy food from all of our markets. You are buying food that is going to support a family farmer to take care of the land in a way that it should,” Robinson said.

Robinson said the effort to bring the farmer's market to Marina Bay was a beautiful way to rise to this occasion, stop dealing with problems as they arise, and come up with a great solution.

“I feel like we can look at the problems we have in Richmond with a kind of collaborative effort drawing on all the skills and resources that we actually have here in Richmond. We just need to bring them together and make them happen,” Robinson said.

“We have kids playing checkers and chess, and people outside in the sun are getting healthy things for their bodies. This is awesome. I am so happy that this is happening,” Robinson said. “Once this really takes root, we can see how we can address other food access issues in the city.”

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