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Farmers' Market Opens Under Overcast Skies

Vendors trek from Pennsylvania, Purcellville and Leesburg to hawk wares.

They come from far and near. From Orrtanna, Pa. comes over a half dozen varieties of apples. The petunias come from Purcellville and the kettle corn company in Vienna pops bagfuls right there in the parking lot.

"I can tell the difference between the Fuji — they’re sweet with a tart taste and the Staymans which are sweeter," said 20-year Herndon resident Cheryl O’ Connor at the opening of the Herndon Farmers’ Market last Thursday, May 9.

The Herndon Farmers’ Market is held each Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through November in the parking lot wedged between the Old Town Hall building and the Municipal Center in downtown Herndon.

"These apples are delicious – actually they’re better because we’re standing outside in the fresh air," said O’ Connor, shopping at the Farmers’ Market with her husband Mike, in spite of the overcast weather.

The O’ Connors bought their apples from Barry Argento, father-in-law of the owner of Reid’s Orchard located in Orrtanna, Pa., about 100 miles west of Gettysburg.

"I’m retired and I had nothing else to do," said Argento. "Besides, my daughter needed help." Argento set out at 4 a.m. on a two-hour trek to Herndon as Reid’s Orchard entered its 12th year at the farmers’ market.

In addition to buying apples from Argento, the O’ Connors bought strawberries and tomatoes from other vendors. "We have two children — they like strawberries," said Cheryl O’ Connor. "My kids would rather have fruit than a candy bar," she said.

IN ADDITION to the tomatoes and peppers sold by Janet Broaddus of the Broadview Farm of Leesburg, flowers and herbs were also available. "Today, it’s more herbs and less vegetables. Rosemary, sage, thyme and basil are very popular — especially basil. Basil goes well with tomatoes — Italian cooking. Everyone seems to want a basil plant," said Broaddus, participating in the farmers’ market for the ninth year. "It’s close — 20 minutes and no traffic," she said.

Laura Lewis with the Potomac Vegetable Farm, with locations in Purcellville and Vienna, emphasized the importance of herbs and cooking with herbs. "I’m pushing herbs. People don’t cook with herbs. They use salt, sugar and fat. If they knew how to cook with herbs, they’d have something interesting — and healthy. Herbs have medicinal properties," said Lewis, who works at the farm in Purcellville, which produces tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant.

ONE ITEM that does use salt and sugar is the kettle corn made on the premises by Colonial Kettle Corn of Vienna new owner of two weeks, Troy Payne. "I use one tablespoon of salt per batch," said the Vienna resident, noting that a batch yields five pounds of kettle corn.

"The fresh made popcorn is so delicious," said 32-year Reston resident Jan Harrington. "It has a slight amount of sugar on it. Once you start, you can’t stop. I bought the big one for my grandchildren — they’ll be lucky if they get any of it," she said.

"We waited all winter for you," said Reston resident Mary Hulbert, due to give birth to her second child on Thursday. "My son wanted this to be the first stop," said Hulbert with two-and-a-half-year-old Ian by her side. "I came to Herndon because it’s the first day," said Hulbert, who bought tomatoes, corn, fruit — "whatever’s fresh," she said.

Vendors like Payne and Broaddus pay $100 for a 15 foot by 15 foot space at the farmers’ market," said market manager John Dudzinsky of Herndon, the town forester. "That’s a good deal — they’ll make that in less than a day," he said.

"We do 10 farmers’ markets a week, including Reston and Dale City," said Payne. "This is a good market."