MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
Within the first two hours, more than 320 people passed through the grand opening of Quantico’s farmers market Thursday, buying bags full of locally produced fresh fruits and vegetables along with artisan baked goods, eggs and pork. The farmers market, held on Marine Corps Exchange parking lot, across from McDonalds, will open there every Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m.
Local food producers from Stafford County and Westmoreland County lined tables with an abundance of freshly harvested berries, peppers, corn and other seasonal produce. Chef Nancy’s bakery out of Fredericksburg and Papa Weaver’s Pork from Orange, Va., were also selling fresh goods.
The farmers market is part of the Operation Live Well Healthy Base Initiative, a Department of Defense program that seeks to promote healthier lifestyles defense-wide. It’s open to anyone who has access to the base, including visitors, contractors, civilians and Marine Corps families. The idea is that by providing access to more fresh healthy food on base, everyone will have an opportunity to make better food choices.
It’s an incentive that’s a “no-brainer” for Terrance Steele, field service representative at Marine Helicopter Squadron One, who said the convenience of farmer’s market makes his choice clear.
“Actually, I prefer fresh fruits and vegetables, so now, instead of getting junk food for lunch, it will be great stop by the farmers market for a couple tomatoes to snack on and maybe some fresh fruit,” Steele said. “I’ll definitely be back next week.”
Elizabeth Borst, event organizer and executive director of the Farmers Market Co., a regional market based in Fredericksburg, partnered with Marine Corps Community Services to offer the service on base.
“We think Quantico is going to be a really receptive customer base, because people get it. They know local food is healthier and tastier,” Borst said. “Our hope is that other bases will look at Quantico and see this is a pretty straight forward way to increase the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.”
Although Quantico is among two other installations, including Ft. Belvior and Defense Health Headquarters Tricare in Falls Church that offer the HBI farmer’s market, Quantico is the only installation that has a farmers market directly on the base.
This means their outcome could potentially influence the idea of HBI farmers market defense-wide.
It seems the initiative is already gaining traction with customers like, Capt. Eve Baker, career counselor at Headquarters Marine Corps Reserve Affairs Division.
“I think having a farmers market on base is a fantastic idea,” Baker said. “There’s so many fast food and junk food options on base, so it’s really nice to have local, fresh produce that is freely available for reasonable prices. I think this really encourages healthier eating.”
Borst said their goal is ensure that everyone aboard the base has an alternative avenue to buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are affordable.
“Lots of people think of farmer’s markets as being a pricey place but not here, we have really talented local producers who grow fresh and affordable food,” Borst said.
Cash, credit and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are accepted. Shoppers who buy with a SNAP EBT card are offered a $10 credit toward their purchase.