HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — 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.