Shoppers at the popular Bridgeport Farmers Market in Bridgeport, West Virginia, can stock up on books along with fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and locally made crafts. The Book & Bean has become a market staple since it was added to the market five years ago, offering a small but handpicked selection of cookbooks, food-related books, West Virginia authors, and children’s titles.
“We want books that are appropriate to the audience of a farmers market,” says market founder Debbie Workman, who launched the venue in 2009. “We hope that with these books we are educating people about local foods, cooking with local foods, seasonality, and things like that.”
While admittedly not a huge moneymaker, it was a personal love of books that led Debbie to add the bookselling vendor to the market, which is held each Sunday in the spring and summer months at a sizable outdoor parking lot in Bridgeport.
And, interestingly, it isn’t only book sales that are drawing in customers. It’s the chance to have a personalized poem written expressly for shoppers while they browse, thanks to the Book & Bean’s partnership with The Bards of Yellow Wood.
The Bards – local high school teachers Daniel Summers and Brian Elliott – teamed up with the market as a way to generate book donations for their classrooms and school library.
“We have one meager talent, which is writing,” jokes Daniel, who developed the poetry idea when he and Brian noticed the growing need of books in the state’s classrooms. “We seem to be pretty quick at it, too, so we thought, what if we set up somewhere and say if you give us a book, we’ll write you a poem?”
So in exchange for a monetary or book donation, the two teachers will write a poem based on whatever prompt the donor requests. During my visit, the Bards were kind enough to write poems about — what else? — bookstores.
After a successful trial run at a nearby farmers market in Morgantown, West Virginia, the Bards approached Debbie, who welcomed them into the Bridgeport Famers Market, and it has proven a match made in literary heaven. The pair will craft anywhere from a couple poems to a few dozen during a day at the market, with prompts ranging from sad to humorous to uplifting to downright bizarre.
“We’ve met people who have wanted poems written for loved ones who have passed on and people who want poems for their puppy they just bought – the whole spectrum of happy to sad, loss and gain,” Daniel says.
“They regularly make people cry,” adds Debbie, noting the Bards’ ability to tap into the emotion of the requested theme with their writing. For each request, both Daniel and Brian write a poem, so donors walk away with two original works.
The Bards have made over $1,500 and brought in more than 4,000 books with their poetry and bookselling booth. All monetary proceeds are used to purchase books as well, each of which ends up in school classrooms and libraries.
“The thing that keeps us going is the people who come and share their stories with us,” Daniel says.
With the Book & Bean stocking farm-ready literature to the Bards of Yellow Wood creating original poetry on demand, the Bridgeport Farmers Market is truly a unique book venue.
Book & Bean at the Bridgeport Farmers Market is located off of exit 124 of I-79, within the Charles Pointe development, in Bridgeport, West Virginia. The market is open Sundays during the spring and summer months.