Charlottesville Farmers’ Market Remains Fresh AT 40

Originally posted in the Virginia Advocate on Sep. 24, 2013


At the heart of downtown lies the Charlottesville City Market, a popular destination for students and locals alike. Every Saturday from April to December, the market is open to the public from 7 a.m. until noon.

After forty years of service, the Market is still expanding and changing to meet the desires of its growing consumer base. From its humble beginnings as a simple farmers’ market, the business has become a local legend with its unique local items that are sold by an ever-growing number of vendors.

According to its Facebook page, the Charlottesville City Market started in 1973 “with the help of the Cason brothers” as a collective organization for local farmers and vendors. Unfortunately, its inception was met with skepticism and doubt about the Market’s potential. In the Daily ProgressGeorge Cason said, “When we first got it started, the city manager asked my brothers and me if we really thought it would take off.” Within a few years, the critics became silent.

While the Charlottesville City Market has the traditional fare of fruits, vegetables, and other homegrown items, it has recently become a regional center for artists and craftsmen. The heart of the square is always abuzz with melodious guitar strumming, singing, and even dancing. A flow of color meets the eye where vendors add a little artistic creation into their displays of handmade clothing, jewelry, and yarn. One man, Sonny Fletcher, told the Virginia Advocate last year that he has been attending the market with his display of Celtic pottery continually for “over sixteen years.”

Keeping up with the changing population of Charlottesville, the Market now includes many international food vendors. Local residents have kept up their heritage and identity by passing down recipes from their home countries and cooking some truly tantalizing dishes. The “Go Dumplings” food truck stands at the center of it all, although attendees should not pass over the Croatian baklava or Filipino barbecue stand out of unfamiliarity. The latter cooks up lumpia (fried spring rolls) and pork kabobs with sweet barbecue sauce, both of which have become all the rage with visitors over the last several years.

Surprising to even the most passionate customers is the fact that the Market continues to play an important role in helping local business achieve national attention and distribution. According to what Heather Raymond told the Virginia Advocate, the now famous “NoBull”–the barley and lentil veggie patty–began as a stand in the Charlottesville City Market. In a handful of years, the patty spread to restaurants throughout Charlottesville like Bodo’s and Trinity on the Corner; however, places as far away as Baltimore, MD and Middletown, CT now sell “NoBull” as well.

Nevertheless, despite its growth, the market has kept its sense of community and sustainability that it strove to foster since its inception. Local businesses are grateful for the advertising and exposure that the Market has given to their products and services.  John Whiteside, the owner of Wolf Creek Farm, told the Virginia Advocate that by talking to consumers about the benefits of eating healthier organic foods like their organic, grass-fed beef, they have been able to further their mission of “keeping the dollars local.”

Students, for their part, also continue to appreciate the unique shopping opportunities at the City Market. Elisabeth Schott, a second-year at the University of Virginia, told the Virginia Advocate that “the farmers’ market is a fantastic way to not only get immediate access to local goods but also take a trip off Grounds . . . . Though the vast spread of vendors is overwhelming at first, exploring the farmers’ market is a Saturday morning well spent.”

To learn more about the City Market, visit www.charlottesvillecitymarket.com.

Educating the Soul: Why Study Religion?

Originally posted in the Virginia Advocate // February 8, 2015

In her article for the Cavalier Daily, Kelly Seegers writes several good reasons for being a Religious Studies major. Whether it be the department’s top-notch faculty or its vast array of courses, faith remains relevant in today’s secular age. While morality is key to scripture, though, religion also has something no other subject can provide. Far from merely educating the mind, it is the only major that can educate the soul.

Now, I do admit my biases as a fellow Religious Studies major. My heart palpitates at the mention of Ethika Politika, First Things, Dominicana, or Communio. I read the Buddha’s “Fire Sermon” and the Upanishads as intensely as St. Augustine’s Confessions. Many of my friends know the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation. Finally, as mentioned earlier, I am a member of the local Chesterton Society. Religion not just consumes me; religion is my life.

Compare this, though, with the University of Virginia’s other fine majors. Many of them prepare for future careers or secular pursuits. Entrepreneurs head to the McIntire School of Commerce. Engineers, nurses, and architects head to their respective departments. The sciences – Biology, Physics, and all of the rest – help describe the universe through testing and experimentation. Humanities majors, like politics and English, explore how people interact with each other. Yet, while these disciplines are all valuable, they are limited in their ability to explain humankind’s attempts to transcend beyond itself.

There is a reason, then, why the Medievals crowned religion as the “Queen of the Sciences” and liberal arts. It is because they recognized that humanity and reason had its limitations, thus prompting the ancient search for causes of reality outside of Creation. As such, Religious Studies is not just about comparative surveys or ethics or history. It rather nourishes the spirit by exploring man’s continuing quest for meaning and Eternity – the latter of which the world certainly cannot give.

Religious Studies is therefore an honorable major in more ways than one. Faith and belief affect others every single day. Its various classes can inform all aspects of life. Plus, even the atheist can glean from religion as it provides a window into historical ways of thinking. Ultimately, however, it is worth learning because it allows people to encounter life outside of a temporal point of view. This is the unique perspective that no other major can provide, making it an excellent course of study at the University.

Returning to Our Roots

Originally posted in the Virginia Advocate // March 24, 2014

“Grueling. Slow. Risky.” These are three words moderns hate to hear, and Forrest Pritchard knows it. As part of Friday’s Virginia Festival of the Book, Pritchard highlighted his memoir, “Gaining Ground,” and his struggle to preserve the family farm by standing against the culture of convenience. Nevertheless, in the fast pace of modernity, is agriculture still worth saving?

In an age of transience, the rootedness of the land is desperately needed more than ever. Even the students have begun to notice:  within Newcomb Hall, Pritchard noticed some of Brown College’s aspiring farmers, and with the advent of groups like Greens to Grounds, local farming has gained traction at the University level. This trend has also spread nationwide in places as varied as Kenyon College in rural central Ohio to the urban spaces of Brown University in Rhode Island. Clearly, then, the earth still has some value, although 80.7 percent of Americans reside within cities, according to the 2010 US Census. So, what does the pasture hold upon the soul that the concrete jungle can never provide?

Perhaps, it is nostalgia; perhaps, as Pritchard argues, it is the primal call of nature. Coming from rural stock, though, it is personally hard to ignore how one’s relationship with the land can shape a person. While my mother did not work on the sugar plantation herself, I do remember her noting her father’s activities as he searched the almanacs, checked the skies, and listened to the radio as he helped keep his employer’s farm afloat. I remembered how my mother told me about her town’s immense sense of community despite the relatively plain lives they led. Most importantly, however, she showed how one could be both intelligent and down-to-earth despite being exposed to the ivory tower since she valued the simple as well as the complex.

In other words, the pastoral life taught her how to be human. Now, this is not to say that city life is inherently dehumanizing, nor should modern man fall into despair over any glorious pretenses of the past. Yet, can concrete teach people about their relationship to the rest of Creation? Can pieces of plastic and metal teach humans about the value of awareness as they encounter others face-to-face? Surely, the urban environment brings commerce and wealth to the nations. Even so, in an increasingly atomized and individualistic society, the farm is still valuable not just for the sake of its food but because it is the light of stability and patience while the world constantly demands instant and swift change.

This is not to say people should fight for – or more fittingly, return to – an agrarian future. Even Pritchard acknowledges the modern difficulties of farming, stemming from today’s emphases on industrialization, productivity, and regulation. Notwithstanding, contemporary culture should not push agriculture into a cubbyhole. Rather, given its connections to history, community, and nature, society should harvest its fruits more than ever.