For those who miss having Smart Markets in Bristow there is good news. Smart Markets will be returning to Bristow this Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., establishing itself at a new permanent location at Piney Branch Elementary on Linton Hall Road.
Jean Janssen, founder of Smart Markets Inc., said she is excited both to have secured a prime location in Bristow and to work cooperatively with the school system.
“In the suburbs, the schools are the best locations for farmers markets, because they already have a community, and they already serve a community,” Janssen said.
Piney Branch Elementary community members are equally excited to have the Smart Markets at their school.
“I thought it was a good idea, because it supports the whole community, including our local farmers. We are trying really hard to bring our school in line with the governor’s initiative for healthy initiatives and healthy eating,” said Cathy Rivera, incoming president of the Piney Branch Parent Teacher School Organization (PTSO.)
So far, Smart Markets farmers have agreed to plant an instructional garden on school grounds. Rivera believes there will be endless opportunities for Smart Markets to support the school in their quest to educate families and to create more opportunities for healthy living.
Despite the advantages, Janssen said schools rarely team up with farmers markets; it is often unrealistic for a market to withstand the long process school systems require before partnering with a business.
However, with community support from Brentsville District Board of County Supervisor Wally Covington and School Board Member Gil Trenum, Janssen said they were able to expedite negotiations.
“The PTSO was trying to work with them as well, and asked me to help to see if I could get it through the process. I always like to help the PTSO,” said Trenum, who said he saw the educational and economic advantages of the business partnership.
“It helps the local farmers to sell a product to the local community; it is a benefit to the school division and to Piney Branch,” Trenum said.
In addition Trenum and the PTSO agreed that the farmers market will help to create a positive identity and community around the Piney Branch school, which opened in 2011.
Coming to a mutually beneficial financial agreement with Piney Branch ultimately made the move possible, said Janssen. While the school will earn money from the market, Janssen negotiated an agreement that would protect her vendors, many of whom have already lost income from the relocation of the market.
Janssen is also grateful to the school system. She said that without help from various individuals she would probably have had to take her market out of Bristow.
And even though she had offers to bring her Sunday market elsewhere, Janssen was determined to stay in the community that provided with her most prosperous market, and really appreciated their presence.
Now Janssen is optimistic for the future of her Bristow market, believing the new location on Linton Hall Road will bring back her former customers as well as grow her customer base.
“Keeping it next to the same road (as the previous location), and next to those two big churches, we knew that was a great source of potential shoppers,” Janssen said.
She expects her Nokesville customers will follow her market as well.
“Nokesville people are used to coming to the population centers to do their shopping,” Janssen said.
Janssen is also not concerned that her market is so close to her former vendors at the Devlin Road Market.
“No, we’re not concerned about proximity. We were strong when we had to move, and expect to regain the same kind of business we were doing very quickly.”
Lastly, she expects the school will provide ample parking and room to grow.
“Yes, we’ll be fine. The school is not in session. They can park in the drop off and park, and bus lanes. (Piney Branch) was designed for a big student body and a lot of activities taking place at the school.”
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