First, the obvious benefits for local growers: in this globalizing world, the folks down the street need all the help they can get. Farmers' markets provide a central location where the community can not only buy local food, but also interact with the growers, which adds a huge social advantage. As consumers notice that local produce just tastes better, they self-select into supporting their new friends and create demand for more local crops. This model plays into the idyllic small-town-America vibe that pervades the Southside, which can only make our region a more attractive place to live and work.
There are also huge environmental benefits to buying local, since your food hasn't burned enormous amounts of gas or diesel to reach you--not to mention that it likely won't be doused with preservatives and pesticides.
Of course, Southside residents and rural Virginians have been shopping at farmers' markets for years, but I think the next step is to create regional economies built on that practice. For example, I would like to see counties shipping their produce into cities like Roanoke, Danville, and Martinsville, where restaurants would agree to use as much local produce as possible. That model could then be expanded northward to urban centers throughout the state.