Competition Alley

We sell produce at two farmers markets each week.

On Saturday mornings we’re at the market in Danville, our nearest city. Danville has about 50,000 residents and the market there is vibrant and well-attended. It’s a friendly atmosphere and we enjoy being a part of it.

On Tuesday afternoons we’re at the market in Chatham, our county seat. Chatham is a quiet, pretty and friendly place, with a population of about 400.

The County courthouse in Chatham

The County courthouse in Chatham

Being a midday market in a very small town, the Tuesday market is much more intimate. There are usually only 4-6 vendors and far fewer shoppers, but it’s a friendly group and we enjoy it too.

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Chatham was named in honor of William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, who was considered by English colonists to be their friend and advocate back in England. Our county is named Pittsylvania, also in his honor.

But originally Chatham had a different name. In anticipation of the prosperity that they hoped free markets would bring, the early settlers named the village “Competition.”

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Our Tuesday afternoon market is in Competition Alley, the only street/alley remaining from those pre-Chatham days. A group of Chatham residents led the effort to restore the alley and earlier this year we were invited to help organize a market there.

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Yes, it's right next to the funeral museum. I haven't been to the museum yet, but I'm dying to visit. On second thought, I wouldn't be caught dead there.

Yes, it’s right next to the funeral museum. I haven’t been to the museum yet, but I’m dying to visit. On second thought, I wouldn’t be caught dead there.

They’ve done a nice job and we like being part of bringing some economic life back to the Alley.

The vendors at Competition Alley. Amy and Joel of Moses Mill Farm, Lynda of Loaded Goat Homestead, Bill and Cherie of White Flint Farm, and Matt of Tightsqueeze Farm. All chemical-free.

The vendors at Competition Alley. Amy and Joel of Moses Mill Farm, Lynda of Loaded Goat Homestead, Bill and Cherie of White Flint Farm, and Matt of Tightsqueeze Farm. All chemical-free.

New farmers markets are popping up all around the country these days, even in small towns like Chatham, Virginia. We find that encouraging.

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22 comments on “Competition Alley

  1. BeeHappee says:

    Truly, it is ironic to have a funeral museum next to the competition alley. I suppose some do compete in having a fancier yet funeral. 🙂
    Do any of the 6 six smiling vendors get competitive? Talking about competition you reminded me of my childhood spent in the market selling produce, it was so competitive, adults would send out us kids to snoop around the market to see what prices others were selling at, so that we could adjust the pricing. Then things would get loud, vendors shouting about their stuff being the best, the freshest, etc. Americans don’t get as loud at farmers markets, or even try to negotiate, but it’s real fun, sometimes when I am in the mood, I try to negotiate just for the fun of it.
    Our town market is like the one you have in Danville, 50,000 residents, and more come in from surrounding areas, it gets quite crowded, with lines, food, music, etc. Always fun though, as there is always activity, and something new, and lots of conversations, and some old man shouting and greeting each woman: well, hello young lady (no matter the age), and talking to each kid. Can you tell, I love our farmers markets. 🙂
    Thank you for the very interesting history of Chatham.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      We’re not at all competitive, in the sense of trying to get business from one another. But as we’re all friends we try not to sell overlapping products if we can. With produce it’s unavoidable but there’s plenty for everyone.

      I know that in some cultures it is normal to bargain with vendors. But we don’t like that. We try to set a fair price and I prefer to have it be “take or leave it.” An Italian woman who is the owner of our town’s oldest Italian restaurant buys from us and she loves to negotiate. At first I went along with it, to avoid seeming rude. But lately I’ve stopped doing it and she pays our price without fussing much. To my way of thinking, fixed prices in markets is one of the greatest contributions of the Quakers. 🙂

      One of the things I like best about the farmers market is the friendliness. We have conversations with nearly everyone who buys from us. Grocery stores these days (by comparison) are cold and impersonal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • BeeHappee says:

        Never thought of fixed prices relating to Quakers, but makes sense. I think bargaining most of the time is not for bringing price down (well sometimes it is) but more so for interaction. We have one farmer who always initiates the bargaining, e.g. he has his berries at $5 a quart, and then he will say, buy 2, and I will give them for $4 each, so then I go along with his game, and ask if he will give three for $10. He may come back with three for $11, and depends whether you go to the market early or late. So prices are not really fixed. After all, very few coins are exchanged, it is all rounded up or down.
        Most people here know or recognize each other from many years in the market. Some people share their craft. We have a guy who makes bird and bat houses out of reclaimed barn wood, he loves talking about it. I would like to see even more local crafts people, in addition to farmers, and it is getting there.

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  2. Sue says:

    What a great site for a market—glad it’s worked out so well.
    It might not be the market that brings in the most “pocket-money”, but I’m sure it’s the one that makes for the best visiting.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It doesn’t get as hectic in Chatham, but we try to visit a while with our customers in both locations. In Chatham we have a lot more time for visiting with the other vendors.

      Like

  3. Aggie says:

    Those puns were deadly.

    Like

  4. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, we have three major farmer’s markets in my city. When markets get to a certain size they start drawing in the people selling crafts. The majority of the spots are still food but other things are sold as well. I don’t see that as a bad thing as long as it remains items that are home crafted and not bought to resell. I tend to like the smaller markets like the ones that you attend. The larger ones are more on a festival level. I’m not one to enjoy large crowds of people. The biggest market in my town is in a part of town that is called “The Old Market”. It’s a part of the downtown area that has been restored to the original look of the city 100 years ago. It’s filled with specialty shops and a multitude of restaurants, and sandwich shops. It’s not uncommon to see street musicians playing for tips on the street corners. During the markets days during the summer it actually does seem like a trip to the past has happened. I suppose it’s a great way to spend a Saturday if your into crowds.

    We just went through a rain cycle here that brought over five inches of rain in two days. It caused some flash flooding in city. I haven’t been to the garden in a few days so I don’t know for sure what has happened there. The water table has been extremely high this year so I’m guessing the garden is still a bit soggy from the rain. We hit a low of 53 last night which is a full 10 degrees below the average for this time of the year. Tomatoes are struggling to ripen. They are still just trickling in a few at a time. Tons of green ones are still on the vine but are not ripening up like usual. It’s been a very cool year here in Nebraska. Some things like cucumbers were prolific but are past their prime now as well as green beans. Green peppers did ok but not really outstanding. It has been an interesting year for sure.

    Have a great post Farmer’s Market day.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’ve been fretting all morning over our fall planting dates. If only I knew for sure that we’re going to have unseasonably cool weather again this fall. For several years in a row we baked in the fall and I pushed all my planting dates back. I really have no idea. For now I’m splitting the difference between my original dates and the later dates I chose after temps rose so much.

      Our summer gardens are winding down now. Cukes are done here. Tomatoes are ripening slowly. But our okra is kicking in strong. Every week of every season brings new issues and challenges it seems.

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  5. shoreacres says:

    The smallest market I’ve ever been to had one vendor — actually, a couple — selling produce on the town square in Goliad, Texas, at 7:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. It was amazing to see how many people showed up. They had suffered a terrible storm that knocked down most of their sweet corn, so the ears were only about 6″ long, but it was some of the best corn I’ve had.

    The history is interesting.I had wondered about Pittsyvania, and now I know. I love that Competition Alley has been restored, too. I’m not so sure about the funeral museum, but I’d probably visit. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of such a thing.

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    • Bill says:

      Some time ago Cherie read a book about Victorian funeral practices and she’s been fascinated by them every since. The museum hasn’t been open long, but it has exhibits related to that period so I’m sure we’ll be visiting sometime soon.

      I suspect a good funeral museum could produce a great post on The Task at Hand. 🙂

      Like

  6. Interesting history about Chatham – I recall a Chatham somewhere near my grandmothers farm in Alabama. Hard to fathom it too may have been named after an English Earl!
    We don’t get to visit the farmers markets much these days with being out at the farm working every weekend, but we still have opportunities to buy local produce at the feed store – they have a whole section with coolers carrying local produce, breads, cheese, yogurt, fruit, etc…, plus our grocer carries produce from farms here on the island and in the neighboring towns. In fact, the grocer has land here that a local farmer manages for them and grows produce they sell in the store – their own brand! It’s all organic too.

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    • Bill says:

      We’re in Pittsylvania County and our county seat is Chatham. In North Carolina there is a Chatham County, whose county seat is Pittsboro.

      It’s great that you have easy access to locally grown food. That’s the best way to eat. 🙂

      Like

  7. associatedluke says:

    Fascinating history! Glad they’re preserving and yet living out their history at the same time. What a cool thing to be a part of.

    Like

  8. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Haha, you’re such a punny fellow!
    Speaking of history, the question has been floating at the back of my brain for awhile now – like every time you mention Danville in a post a tiny bell sounded a little louder and today, I finally GOT it!
    Is your Danville the same one as this THIS Danville? (Loved this sad old song since I was a kid…) From The Band: and written by one of my favourite Toronto singer/ songwriters, Robbie Robertson http://youtu.be/jREUrbGGrgM

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    • Bill says:

      Yep, that’s our Danville, and one of my favorite songs.

      When the Confederate cabinet had to flee Richmond, they came to Danville. For about a week Danville was the de facto capital of the Confederacy.

      Like

  9. Lovely to hear how the farmers market is invigorating the town. The farmers market I go to is larger, but I have gotten to know some of the growers because I see them each week.

    As a side note, I’m wondering what kind of exhibits are in the funeral home museum. 🙂

    Like

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