Fresh produce, bread, honey, scented soap, flowering plants and even outdoor furniture are all available at the Clifton Farmer's Market.
And that's just a small sampling of all the goodies in store for early risers, Sunday mornings, in the Town of Clifton. Now in its third year, the market opened May 5 and will run through Oct. 13. Hours are 8 a.m.-noon in the Clifton Post Office parking lot on Chapel Road.
Said market master Deb Dillard of Clifton. "You can't get it any fresher than this, unless you're growing it, yourself."
Most of the produce comes from farmers who live in Westmoreland County in Southern Virginia. "These guys get up at 3 in the morning to drive here," said Dillard. "The farmers bring their families with them, and they're all a nice bunch of people."
They also bring a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including four kinds of lettuce (such as bibb and Boston), spring onions, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, kohlrabi, beets and fresh garlic. "The garlic is nothing like you get in the grocery store," noted Dillard. "It's completely moist."
For the next two weeks, fresh asparagus will be offered, with corn and tomatoes arriving, the end of June. Also available are strawberries at $3/quart or $5 for two quarts, plus bundles of fresh spinach selling for $1-$1.50, depending on the size of the bundle. Beginning June 2, apples and plums will make their debut there —joined later that month by peaches.
"There's just so much difference in flavor between storebought and farm-grown," said Dillard. "Everything at the market is picked no later than the night before."
But that's not all. Jamie's General Bean from Centreville Square offers various flavors of coffee, and freshly baked breads, doughnuts and pastries are available from the Country Oven Bakery, a family-owned shop in Burke.
Most of the breads cost about $3/loaf, and visitors to the farmer's market may choose from rustic loaves, health breads made with four different grains and nuts, Vienna loaves, baguettes, rye bread and challah. Doughnuts sell for 60 cents each, and pastries are $1.50 apiece.
Centreville residents Terri and Tom Merz, owners of T & T Apiaries, bring honey and honey products. "They usually have a demonstration hive so people can see the bees working," said Dillard. "And Tom explains what the bees are doing."
The Merzes sell different colors and flavors of honey, as well as honey sticks for sipping, tubs of creamed honey to spread on bread and chunks of combed honey for chewing like gum. Also offered are handmade, beeswax candles ranging from $1.75 to $4.50, in different shapes, sizes and colors.
The local couple also makes handmade honey/glycerin soap in six different scents — vanilla, coconut, citrus, lemon, peppermint and lavender. "I bought my mother five of them for Mother's Day," said Dillard. "They're scented with essential oils, and each contains a capsule of vitamin E for extra moisturizing and nutrients for your skin."
Also available are chunks of beeswax used for strengthening strands of sewing thread or coating the runners of sticky dresser drawers to make them open smoothly. "You can make furniture polish out of beeswax, turpentine and lemon oil," added Dillard. "And it's great to shine and rejuvenate wooden floors."
The Clifton Farmer's Market offers houseplants, hanging plants and bedding plants, too. The selection includes gardenias, geraniums, pansies and impatiens. And Mark Knauff, owner of Warm Woods of Clifton, makes Adirondack chairs and tables for outdoor use.
Dillard says lots of local residents come to the market, as well as out-of-towners heading there after early church services. And it's no wonder, she said: "Prices are cheaper or the same as elsewhere, but the quality is so much better."