Farmers Market Heroes: Joel Slezak and Erica Hellen
Meet Joel Slezak and Erica Hellen, the friendly faces behind Virginia’s Free Union Grass Farm. Joel and Erica’s pastured chicken and duck, grass-fed beef and free-range eggs have become staples at Charlottesville’s City Market since 2010. The pair also sells organic cotton tees bearing their popular logo and honey made by a friend on their land. Customers value Joel and Erica’s dedication to quality and sustainability, just as much as Joel and Erica value their time manning the tent.
“Interfacing directly with our customers each week has a huge impact on us.” Erica shared, “Our market customers are so appreciative of what we do and it’s great to be reminded that our work is valuable. Days on the farm can be tough, but knowing our community looks forward to us being at the market each week motivates us to keep going.”
Their presence at the market also plays a big role in their farm’s success. “It is fundamental to our business to show up each week and represent our products. It allows people to meet us and put a face to the person growing their food.”
FMC is grateful to all of the farmers market heroes out there, working to build a stronger connection between agriculture and consumers. Help us ensure that farmers markets across the country have the tools they need to serve amazing businesses like Free Union Grass Farm. Show your appreciation by giving an FMC membership to your favorite farmer or market! Donate in the name of your local market or farmer, and they’ll have access to FMC information, network and advocacy tools for one year!