Dina Foster
Dina Foster
Board President, Putnam Farmers Market
Dina Bernardes Foster
'We are what we eat,' says Farmers Market chief

August 8, 2017

There is a Farmers Market in Putnam, Dina Foster told local Rotarians today. "We want to let people to know that they don't have to go all the way to the Wild Ramp in Huntington or the Capitol Market in Charleston to get fresh food.

"The market is open on Saturdays from 9:00 to 1:00 in front of the red barn at the entrance to Valley Park," she said, "from the first Saturday in May to the last Saturday in October.

"Our biggest months are July and August, and we usually have as many as 300 people coming through the market on a Saturday morning."

Foster grew up near the ocean in Portugal. "My mom got fresh fish every morning from the market," she said. "We had fresh bread. We grew our own food. We had a vineyard. Made wine. I've always been used to fresh food.

"I believe we are what we eat. And I've always known that if I want to stay healthy -- especially as I grow older -- that I'd better put good food stuff in my body.

"That's hard to do sometimes," she continued, "because it's hard to find food that is not full of pesticides.

"One of the great things about our Putnam Farmers Market is that we are a producer-only market. It's always been that way and we plan on keeping it that way.

"That means that if you are a vendor at Farmers Market you grow your own food. That makes it special, and when people come, they know what they're getting.

"We have fruits and vegetables. We have eggs. Some of our farmers bake bread. We have a lady who grows lavender. Then we have a vendor who is a potter. She and her husband grow specialty things -- mushrooms.

"We have a guy that has honey. It's Putnam County honey, and it has all the nutrients to help with allergies because you're using the pollen and stuff from this area.

"People ask, 'What did you use on your vegetables? Are your eggs free-range? What do you give your cows?'

"People are more and more aware that pesticides are bad for you. They want food that is grown without them. One of our vendors is one of the few totally organic farmers in the state."

Vendors must be within a 100-mile radius of Winfield.

"We also have crafters," she said. "And the crafters that set up at Farmers Market -- they have to bring their own stuff. They can't just buy things and bring them in."

Foster herself became involved with the market about eight years ago. "I was invited as a guest vendor with my jewelry," she told her Rotary audience.

A local resident for 23 years, Foster was drawn to to the area by the schools for her children. "I fell in love with Putnam County people," she said. "Hard working farmers who really care about good food. I won't move. It's a really special place."

Now she is in her third year as president of the Putnam Farmers Market board.

"We increased the number of our board to eleven people. Only three of those are vendors from the market. We wanted to have the market represented, but we have someone from the Department of Agriculture and someone from the Extension Office, and the rest are from the community. We added people with special skills, like social media, to have ideas and ways of advertizing.

"Half of the people in this county don't know we exist; our big effort is to let people know we're here."

The Farmers Market is supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention & Visitors' Bureau, the City of Hurricane and the County Commission. A permanent structure is planned with other improvements now underway at Valley Park. Director Jarrod Dean came into the position from the state Department of Agriculture.

"We also want to get with area restaurants and have them use our produce," said Foster. "We already have Bridge Cafe & Bistro and Hidden Creek.

"Each Saturday we try to have an event," she added. "It's not just people coming to shop. We want this market to be a place where people can come and hang out on Saturday morning.

"On the first Saturday we have tried to have food trucks. On the second Saturday, we invite crafters.

"The third Saturday, we have music. Get your fresh vegetables and listen to music.

"On the fourth Saturday of the month we have 'kids day.'

"We used to have fresh vegetables available only in the summertime. But that's not true anymore.

"A lot of our vendors have 'high tunnels' and they are able to give us all kinds of stuff through the winter."

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