A decade of local flavor

Lakeside Farmers' Market owners and founders Sharon and Peter Francisco. (Photo by Ashlee Korlach for the Henrico Citizen)
Peter and Sharon Francisco have been married and lived in Lakeside for more than 40 years, but this year they’re celebrating another type of milestone: the 10th year of business for the Lakeside Farmers’ Market, which they own and operate.

On a hot and humid ‘Lakeside Day’ morning, with bubbles floating through the air and a water wheel tinkling in the background, they recounted the story of the farmers’ market and how they’ve tried to make a difference in the community.

The market began in late April 2008 and was open only on Saturdays. Now, it has grown to include Wednesdays, and on a peak Saturday during the summer, 1,000 people may visit, the Franciscos said.

Lakeside Farmers’ Market was voted the No. 1 market in Virginia in America Farmland Trust’s “America’s Favorite Farmers’ Market Contest” in 2011 and selected as one of the top farmers’ markets in the U.S. by Rodale, Inc. in 2012.

The Franciscos also added a permanent pavilion after three years and an indoor market space, Lakeside Farmers' Market Too!, after four years. The two expansions made the space the only permanent farmers’ market in Henrico County and cost about $500,000, Peter said.

The couple does not make a profit from running the market. In fact, it costs the Franciscos about $40,000 a year to operate it.

They manage the market themselves and visit it every day – not just when it’s open. They handle everything from advertising and promotions to scrubbing toilets and picking up trash themselves, they said. On Saturdays, their work begins at 6 a.m. as they set up and prepare the market for vendors and customers.

Peter is originally from Lakeside but moved as a child to the north side of Richmond, where Sharon grew up. The pair married in 1973. Their first home was in Lakeside. Their second one is, too. They own and lease about 75 properties in the area, they said.

The idea for the market began when Sharon attended a picnic for the Lakeside Business Association at the site of the future market. Fairfield Supervisor Frank Thornton and his wife, Betty, also attended, Sharon said. Betty loved produce and suggested the space would be great for a farmers’ market.

“She planted the seed,” Sharon said.

The Franciscos worked with Henrico County for three years to plan the market and get approval. About the same time they were planning to start the market, a group of VCU zoning and planning students studied the Lakeside area and determined it would be a good fit for a farmer’s market. The market was deemed a “catalyst for revitalization,” Sharon said.

At that time, Short Pump and Stony Point were starting to develop, Sharon said.

“We were afraid that Lakeside could really, really be lost,” she said. “We’re an area that has more than 100 mom-and-pop shops. We wanted to make sure that they weren’t going to be lost in the shuffle.”

Now the market includes a variety of vendors that sell everything from fresh produce and flowers to goat milk soap, pastries and seafood. Some vendors have been selling at the market throughout its 10-year existence, Sharon said.

“The produce selection here is what makes the most difference,” Peter said. “It’s some of the best produce selection around.”

The Franciscos selectively choose their vendors so the market has a little bit of everything, and they focus on choosing farmers over food vendors, they said. At other markets, “people empty their wallets and fill their stomachs before they get to the farmers,” Sharon said.

Terri Levandoski, who has been selling flowers from her garden at Lakeside since the beginning, enjoys the market.

“It’s a neighborhood thing,” she said.

The Lakeside Farmers’ Market added permanent bike racks two years ago. (Citizen file photo)

Rewards are evident
One of the farmers that sells at Lakeside, Kyle Anderberg, travels the shortest distance to sell his produce: about 275 feet. Anderberg farms the property directly behind the Lakeside Farmers’ Market – which the Franciscos also own. He grows fruits, vegetables, flowers and is raising chicken and bees on what he calls “Lakeside’s Tiny Acre.”

Deer Run Farm has been selling its produce at Lakeside the entire 10 years it’s been open, Britney Rudolph said. Rudolph helps run the family farm part-time with her husband, who farms full-time. Rudolph enjoys selling at Lakeside because of the permanent structure and the consistent customer base.

“Peter and Sharon have always been really accommodating,” Rudolph said. “They love to support the area. They’re always doing little extra things for us just to keep the market up and going.”

The Franciscos also try to make the market as accessible as possible. They accept government food stamps and have installed bike racks.

They also have stopped collecting vendor fees this year, because the farmers have to struggle to make a living like everyone else, Peter said.

Since they started the market, the Franciscos have seen an increase in the number of other farmers’ markets in the area and grocery stores promoting local and organic produce. But they like to keep the Lakeside market small to keep it hands-on and support the smaller local farmers.

“You see a table empty, you feel like you’ve done your job,” Peter said.

The couple also hopes the market has attracted new customers to Lakeside businesses, and thereby improved the Lakeside community.

“It does increase the property values of the neighborhood when there’s a viable business district,” Sharon said.

The best part of running the market for the past 10 years is “seeing something develop that we had an idea about and seeing it take hold and come to fruition,” Peter said.

“Seeing people coming and the community coming together. That’s rewarding.”
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Rock on!

The painted rocks craze is thriving in Henrico, as a walk around the grounds of local libraries and parks will demonstrate. This rock was spotted near Libbie Mill Library, and there's a slideshow of many more uniquely-painted stones on the RVA Rocks Facebook page (https://facebook.com/groups/RVARocks/).

Painting and hiding rocks is a family activity appropriate for all ages, and parents especially like the way it fosters creativity and gets kids outdoors. > Read more.

Goochland man arrested at RIC with gun

A Goochland County man was arrested at Richmond International Airport July 19 after Transportation Security Administration officers found a loaded semi-automatic handgun in the traveler’s carry-on bag.

A TSA officer detected the 9 mm caliber handgun inside the man’s carry-on bag as it entered the security checkpoint X-ray machine. The handgun was loaded with 12 bullets. > Read more.

Kansas man struck, killed while crossing West Broad Street

A 54-year-old Kansas man was struck and killed by a car while attempting to cross West Broad Street near Bethlehem Road in the Near West End at about 10:30 p.m., July 19.

Julius A. McBride of Overland Park, Kansas, was struck by a car traveling east on West Broad Street. > Read more.

Henrico Police warn citizens to ‘Take it, Lock it or Lose it’

Eastern parts of Henrico County have witnessed a recent increase in larceny from automobiles, so Henrico Police officials are spreading the word to encourage citizens to lock their vehicles.

Police are handing out and posting fliers and putting message boards in neighborhoods to educate residents.

There usually is a rise of larceny from automobiles during Christmas, spring and summer break, said Henrico Police Officer James Bupp. > Read more.

Glover to be inducted posthumously into Babe Ruth Hall of Fame

Late Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover will be inducted into the Babe Ruth Southeast Region Hall of Fame during a ceremony Aug. 14 at RF&P Park at approximately 6:30 p.m., prior to a 14-and-under Babe Ruth World Series game. The Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association, which is hosting the World Series, made the announcement July 18. > Read more.

Henrico Business Bulletin Board

July 2017

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will host a pop-up art installation by Virginia artist Mirinda Powers Reynolds July 22-23. Reynolds creates art by felting rocks. Visitors can watch her create her magic, or even help as she transforms rocks in the Garden. Included with Garden admission which is $8 to $13. For details, visit http://www.lewisginter.org. Full text

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