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Time, Place Make Farmer's Market Work

Jump-starting a farmer's market was easier the second time around in Lee District. In its fourth week, the Kingstowne Farmer's Market is gaining momentum every week, but the vendors have already labeled it a success.

Jay Adams weighed order after order of tomatoes on his fourth time out on Friday, May 6. Adams was with C & T Produce from Spotsylvania, Va.

"More and more people are coming out. The weather's been a big factor for us," he said.

Kingstowne resident Ann McIntyre is the assistant market master at the Kingstowne Farmers Market. She's been part of it since the beginning in April and stays in touch with the vendors every week.

"These guys were so surprised there were so many people out," she said.

Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office was a driving force behind this year's market in Kingstowne. They tried one at Lee District Park in previous years but the time was not convenient for the residents, so the farmers' market was discontinued in 1998. That market was open Friday mornings, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The Kingstowne market is open Fridays, 4-7 p.m.

"The advantage of doing it from four to seven, you reach a broader range of people," said Kauffman's staff assistant Linda Waller.

Margie Joyce, a program volunteer, was familiar with the timing decision. Kingstowne is the only market with evening hours.

"It's our only market in the afternoon," she said. "Due to the demographics, we thought it would be a success. It seems to be working very well."

The Kingstown market is one of 10 farmers markets in the county and will run every Friday through Oct. 31.

ON JUNE 6, the market consisted of a dozen tents selling everything from fresh bread to tomatoes, flowers and old fashioned "kettle corn." The tents were set up in a clearing between two shopping plazas and many of the residents walked to the market, some with dogs, from nearby neighborhoods.

The corn was getting more popular as a band, "The Oklahoma Twisters," prepared to go on at 7 p.m. At the kettle corn stand, Clint Barnes was decked out in a colonial outfit to set the mood. He came in from the countryside near Haymarket with his special kettles. It's an old-fashioned way of cooking popcorn.

"It's been steadily picking up," he said.

Although last Friday's market was the fourth one this year, it was the first of a summer-long concert series that is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. when the market stops for the evening.

"They've been popping non-stop," McIntyre said.

Alexandria resident Robin Valentine didn't know about the weekly event but saw a roadside sign from Kingstowne Parkway.

"I'm a big fan of farmer's markets," she said, "the fresh produce and community aspect."