The pandemic forced many community organizers to hold events online instead of in person last year. In Petersburg, one major example was The Market.
But this summer, it’s back. Local artists and produce growers will sell their goods at Inga’s Galley every second and fourth Saturday of the month through September.
As Katie Anastas reports, this year’s food producers had extra support in the form of microgrants.
Amy Anderson is surrounded by about a dozen hens in her front yard.
“They’re fun,” she said. “Sometimes we just sit out here and read next to them. They each have their own little personalities too. They’ll follow you around in the morning. If I’m walking the dog up there, they run around the fence to see what’s going on.”
While some are enjoying their breakfast, others are sitting on eggs inside the chicken coop. Anderson said they typically get 10 eggs a day. She’s excited to share them with the community at The Market, starting this Saturday.
“You know where they came from,” she said. “We try to feed them good stuff. And they get a lot of kitchen scraps, so if I eat it, hopefully it’s not that bad.”
Anderson and some friends got the hens in spring. She’d never raised chickens before. She said the biggest challenge is making sure they don’t escape, and eat a neighbor’s seedlings or make their way onto someone’s roof.
When she found out she got a microgrant from The Market, she got to work on a fence made, in part, out of a recycled seining net donated by neighbors.
Further down Mitkof Highway, Jenna Wilson-Ashby is harvesting a different kind of egg: duck eggs. She said they lay nearly every day, and she gets six or seven eggs each day. They’re sometimes as big as her palm, and she says they’re especially good for baking.
But eggs aren’t the reason she first got ducks after moving across the country from West Virginia. She got them because they eat slugs.
The lack of sunlight and threat of slugs made it tougher to grow vegetables in two raised beds in her garden. But with the help of a microgrant from The Market, she bought poly-carbonate sheets that turn the raised beds into mini greenhouses.
This weekend, she’ll sell greens, radishes, herbs and rhubarb. Later in the summer, she’ll have cucumbers, beets and carrots.
“I want to produce something that is good for the community,” Wilson-Ashby said. “Any project that I go into, I want to put 100% into it.”
While wet weather and pests can make gardening a challenge, she’s pushing herself to produce as much as she can. That’s exactly why The Market wanted to give out these microgrants this year, says market manager Orin Pierson.
“There’s something to be said for that entrepreneurial spirit of taking one’s own self a little more seriously, holding a person accountable to a deadline and getting your crops to The Market,” he said.
Vendors can become more established businesses in the community, like the Salty Pantry, Farragut Farms and others have since starting out at The Market. Pierson said it’s a way for people to experiment with a business idea, and see if it’s something they want to grow further.
But most importantly, he said, The Market is about bringing the community together. Especially after the pandemic.
“I think people have, in some ways, drifted apart in certain ways over the last year and half or so,” he said. “Conditions have held people apart.”
But now that conditions have changed, it was especially important to have The Market in person again.
“Because,” Pierson said, “You’ve got to have community together to have community together.”
The first Market is this Saturday at Inga’s Galley from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will feature live music. The Market will continue every second and fourth Saturday of July, August and September.
If you’re still interested in becoming a vendor, you can fill out a sign-up form at Sing Lee Alley Books or email email@example.com.