How to Find Local Food

farmers market

Buying local can connect you with healthier food that is good for the environment and your community. It takes a bit of retraining — like forming any good habit. But the rewards are delicious fruits, vegetables and proteins at the peak of their flavor.

Below, find a few resources to get you started. Once you begin, you’ll find your own favorite farmers and markets. Before you know it, you’ll be the one giving your neighbors and friends advice!

The easiest way to buy local is to shop at farmers markets. In the Roanoke area, there are two markets that run through the winter:

Starting in the spring and continuing through the growing season, find local food at these markets:

  • Historic Roanoke City Market. On Saturday mornings, this market is bustling, but in the summer, farmers show up many days of the week too. From Wednesdays through Saturdays, you can typically find a good variety of fruits, vegetables and even sustainably sourced seafood.
  • Salem Farmers Market. This market is a busy scene on summer Saturdays and hosts vendors on weekdays, too.
  • Grandin Village Farmers Market. From April to November, this market pops up in a parking lot behind Grandin Road from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday. Arrive early for the best selection; vendors often run out of their top offerings.
  • South County Seasonal Farmers Market. Beginning in April, this market meets in the parking lot beside The Shoppes at West Village, off Electric Road. More farmers show up as summer crops ripen. Look for tents on Thursdays through Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • LEAP, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to local food, runs a mobile market from May through October. Each weekday, a refrigerated truck drives to a different Roanoke location (including Carilion Riverside) to offer fresh veggies in convenient locations.

You can also choose subscription services that come directly from area farms. Typically, these are called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. You can buy dairy shares and meat shares, vegetable shares and fruit shares. There are also CSA programs that bundle all kinds of food into one weekly box.

  • Thornfield Farm offers vegetables, proteins and fruit. They typically sell out of shares so if you’re interested, you should check out their website in late February/early March. They are a farm that lets you pre-order online what you’ll get in your delivery each week.
  • LEAP Farm Share is a more typical model, where you do not have control over what ends up in your box. But there are many options for pickup days and places and you can choose a fruit share, a veggie share, an egg share or a medley share. The deadline for signing up is April 17, 2020.
  • Seven Springs Farm has been offering area CSAs for 30 years. Their main shares focus on produce, but they have herb, egg and beef add-ons. They also offer a work share, where the cost of your food is discounted in exchange for your helping out at the farm.
  • Edible Goose Creek CSA is a collaboration of three small-scale producers in Bedford County. They offer grass-fed meat, eggs, herbs, greens, mushrooms, flowers, and a unique “wellness” share. Subscribers customize their shares when they enroll.

Another way to shop local is to reach out to growers directly. This usually works best for procuring meat. Here are a few farms nearby that sell directly to consumers: Bramble Hollow Farm (chicken, eggs, pork), Weathertop Farm (chicken, eggs, turkey, pork), Lazy Pigg Farm (chicken, beef, lamb and pork), Truman Hill Farm (beef). These proteins will be more expensive than what you find in the grocery store. You are paying for them to be grown with the best inputs and living in the most humane conditions.

Some vegetable farms are also reaching out directly to customers. At Four Oaks Farms, you can order greens from their online store.

There are also, increasingly, delivery services that will bundle local food that you can pick up at a designated location. Here are a few services that I know of:

Virginia Field Goods This group is just getting started. But they are adding new growers all the time. Take a look. If they’re offering something you’d like in a way that works for you, it might be worth giving them a try.

Homestead Creamery This Wirtz, Va., farm and dairy plant specializes in local milk and ice cream. But if you sign up for Homestead Creamery’s home delivery service, you can also opt in for local veggies, bread and locally prepared foods.

I should also mention The Roanoke Co-op. This Grandin Village store has signs that designate the locally grown produce, eggs and meat they sell. They also offer packaged products on their shelves. Some items, such as coffee and bread are crafted locally. Others are processed locally AND made with local ingredients. Look for Singing Spring Farm heirloom corn meal, Gracious Day Grains buckwheat pancake mix and Bent Mountain Salsa, to name a few.