For those who love to cook and those who love to eat, the sights and smells of spring don't end with sunny days and flowers. These people long for the impossibly slender stalks of new asparagus, fresh new peas, the irresistible aroma and color of real strawberries — not the aerobicized, plasticized but soulless beauties of California but local strawberries grown nearby, where the weather is just a little milder than Northern Virginia.
For them the best sign of spring is the return of farmers markets.
"They are a gem of Fairfax County," said Sandy Flowers, outreach program coordinator for Green Springs Garden Park and the coordinator of the nine farmers markets sponsored by the Fairfax County Park Authority. The very first of these to open will be the Annandale Farmers Market on Thursday, May 2.
"The products have to be grown by the vendor, who must come from an area within 125 miles of Fairfax County, " Flowers said, adding that at this point the markets do not carry dairy, eggs, meat or fish, although that may change in the future, once all health regulations can be followed.
THE MARKETS DO HAVE PLANTS, small shrubs and herbs, bread, baked goods, fruits and vegetables. "We carry every kind of vegetable and fruit known to man," Flowers said. "Each year we offer more and more varieties, five kinds of eggplant and 20 varieties of tomatoes.”
Then there are the berries. "Berry farmers sell out almost immediately," she said, along with those harbingers of spring, asparagus, spring greens, lettuce and strawberries.
There are nine such markets, each started by people in the community. "The last one to be added is Reston. The people there pulled it all together, found the location." Flowers added that people in Springfield are now trying to put one together. "If they pull it off, we can have 10."
Right now the county has more growers wanting to sell than it has room for, a problem that will hopefully be solved by adding markets.
The markets include the Annandale Farmers Market, open on Thursday; Burke Centre Farmers Market, open Saturdays; Fairfax Extension Farmers Market in Fairfax City, open Tuesdays; Frying Pan Park Market in Herndon, open Wednesdays; Herndon Farmers Market, open Thursdays; McLean Farmers Market, open Fridays; Mount Vernon Farmers Market open Tuesdays; Vienna Farmers Market, open Wednesdays; and Reston Farmers Market, open Saturdays — the last one to open this year, on May 18.
LOUDOUN RESIDENTS HAVE BEEN on the same weather roller-coaster ride as the rest of Northern Virginia, but beginning May 4 they will be able to shop at five farmers markets sponsored by the Loudoun County Office of Economic Development. The markets will offer plants, fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables, baked goods and eggs.
"The chief restriction is that it is a producer-only market," said Warren Howell, agricultural marketing manager for the Loudoun County Office of Economic Development
He explained that the seller has to be the one who grew or made the product being sold; it can't be purchased from somewhere else.
Loudoun defines “local” as anything produced within 125 miles of Leesburg, and the reason for that is to take advantage of the earlier growing season of Northern Neck. Markets this year will be open in Cascades, Sterling, Leesburg, Middleburg and Round Hill. Cascades, which will be open on Sundays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., will open May 5; and Leesburg will be open on Saturdays, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., starting on May 4. The Middle burg Farmers Market will also open on May 4, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Round Hill will open Sunday, May 5, from 2-5 p.m.; and the Sterling Market will open on Wednesday, June 5, running from 4-7 p.m.
<sh>Fairfax County Markets
The Fairfax County Park Authority sponsors nine markets throughout the county:
* Tuesdays: Mount Vernon, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Sherwood Regional Library, Sherwood Hall Lane, opening May 7;
Fairfax City, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Van Dyck Park in Fairfax City, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., opening May 7.
*Wednesdays: Vienna at Nottoway Park, 9601 Courthouse Road, 8-12:30 p.m., opening May 8;
Herndon at Frying Pan Park, 2709 West Ox Road, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., opening May 8.
*Thursdays: Herndon Farmers Market at the Station Street parking lot near town hall, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., opening May 9;
Annandale, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at the Mason District Park, 6621 Columbia Pike, opening May 2.
*Fridays: McLean Farmers Market at Lewinsville Park, 1659 Chain Bridge Road, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., opening May 10.
*Saturdays: Burke Centre , 56571 Roberts Parkway, at the VRE parking lot, 8 a.m.-noon, opening May 4;
Reston at Lake Anne Plaza, 8 a.m.-until noon, opening May 18.
Contact the Park Authority with questions at 703-642-5173.
In addition, you can check out Claude Moore Colonial Farm at 6310 Georgetown Pike in McLean, which also offers 18th-century events. Call 703-847-0710.
The Virginia Grown guide also list Cox Farms on Braddock Road in Centreville and their market on Route 123 in Oakton. The Farm is open daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., from April to October. The market is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday to Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from April until December. Call 703-830-4121 and 703-281-0165.
Potomac Vegetable Farms at 9627 Leesburg Pike in Vienna is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, May through October. It is a certified organic farm. Call 703-759-2119.
Additional information about markets and farms throughout the state can be accessed at the Virginia Department of Agriculture's Web site: www.vdacs.state.va.us/vagrown/index.html
<sh>Loudoun Farm Markets
<lst>Loudoun Valley HomeGrown Markets Association sponsors the following markets:
Cascades Farmers Market, open Sundays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at Whitfield Place next to the Senior Center, near Eastern Regional Library, opening May 5
Leesburg Farmers Market, open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., on Saturdays, at the Virginia Village Shopping Center, opening May 4.
Middleburg Farmers Market, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., on Saturdays, at Marshall Street behind the Community Center, opening May 4.
Sterling Farmers Market, from 4-7 p.m., Wednesdays, at Briar Path Park on Sterling Boulevard, opening June 5
Round Hill Farmers Market, from 2-5 p.m., on Sundays, at Main Street and Business Route 7, opening May 5.
Other markets listed by Virginia Grown include
Crooked Run Orchard in Purcellville, Farmer John's Wayside Stand in Leesburg, Great Country Farms in Bluemont and Tarara Winery and Nursery in Leesburg. Call the Loudoun County Office of Economic Development with questions, at 703-777-0426.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture has information on markets throughout the state. Check out its Web site for more information: "http://www.vdacs.state.va.us/vagrown/index.html" www.vdacs.state.va.us/vagrown/index.html