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Produce, Crafts and Camaraderie

It's Clifton Farmers Market for fresh fruits, veggies, honey, jewelry.

Theresa DeFluri of Centreville's Sequoia Farms community held a bagful of ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and summer squash. Daughter Chrissy, 7, had a fistful of honey sticks.

And both had a wonderful time at the Clifton Farmers Market. DeFluri shopped while Chrissy did an art project under the guidance of Jacquie Lambertson, owner of Clifton's toy store, Noodles & Noggins.

"I TRY TO COME here as often as I can," said DeFluri. "It's a fabulous place with friendly people and great products, and you're supporting the local agricultural industry."

Now in its sixth year, the farmers market is held each Sunday, from 8 a.m.-noon, on Chapel Road in the Town of Clifton, and will run through Clifton Day, Oct. 8. There, customers will find farm-fresh corn, cantaloupe, watermelon, three types of tomatoes, green beans, bell and hot peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, basil, peaches and blackberries.

In addition, Pie Gourmet of Vienna offers fresh scones, muffins and pies; and when the weather's a tad cooler, Dave's Candy Kitchens of Fairfax will be there with homemade chocolates, syrups and toffee crunch.

But that's not all. Other vendors include: Warm Woods of Clifton (Adirondack chairs, hardwood cutting boards, planters and footstools), Emily's Fresh-Cut Flowers, two people selling jewelry — Lara Wheeler of Maverick Chic Accessories and Tamu White-Fitzgerald of Handcrafted by Tamu, Kendall's Fine Art (fun to fantasy pottery and framed art, especially chickens and mermaids), and T & T Apiaries of Centreville (honey and honey products).

On a recent Sunday, Chrissy DeFluri made a foam-craft picture frame with her name and flowers on it, plus a soccer ball and football. She'll be a cheerleader for the SYA Wildcats this fall, and her frame celebrates that fact.

Her mother bought produce. "I love the fresh vegetables," she said. "I'm a floral designer and a naturalist, so I try to support the farmers market as much as possible. I also love Dave's candy and the honey."

Honey vendors Tom and Terri Merz also sell soap, lip balm and candles at the market. "The honey-peppermint soap is the only soap that gets gardening and floral-design stains off my fingers," said DeFluri. "And their lip gloss is the best — it's my absolute favorite. It's got honey and vitamin E, and I use it every night before I go to bed."

Pam Carter and Sandy Browning drove from Manassas to Clifton's farmers market. They went home with earrings from Maverick Chic and tomatoes from farmer Herman of Westmoreland County.

"THE FRUITS and vegetables are 10 times fresher than you can get at supermarkets," said Carter. "Big markets pick early to transport them, but these are fresh off the vine."

"We came for tomatoes, and still we bought jewelry — and a chicken pot pie," said Browning. Pleased with her new earrings, Carter was delighted that, at the market, "You can sometimes find the most innovative vendors who haven't yet made it to the big time."

Even Fairfax County Deputy Chief of Police Suzanne Devlin, of Fairfax Station, goes to Clifton's market. "It's nice to do your shopping four minutes from home," she explained. "It's convenient, and I just did my week's shopping and even got to socialize with a couple people. And anytime I can get on a two-lane road with no traffic, that works for me."

"When you look at Fairfax County, it's nice that there's a little place that stays this way — downhome," she continued. "So for those of us who remember farms here, it's really nice." On a recent Sunday, she spent $25 and got a whole passel of produce: tomatoes, sweet onions, peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, corn on the cob and green beans.

"You feel like it's freshly picked off the farm," said Devlin. "And I think the lack of refrigeration keeps [the fruits and vegetables] ripening. Once they hit refrigeration in the grocery store, that stops the ripening and affects the flavor. Here, the peppers are sweeter."

Toting 22-month-old twins Jacqueline and Daria to the farmers market were Caitlin and Gary Lhommedieu of Clifton. They come every few weeks for both the produce and the crafts.

"This market has a hometown feel," said Caitlin. "We know people, and it's so nice to chat. We get tomatoes, corn, zucchini and onions. And I always take a look at the bookmarks, honey, beeswax and pies. Then we go off to the [Clifton Town] Park afterward."

She'd recommend this market to others, she said, because of the "community feeling" it has. "And that's true of everything in downtown Clifton," said Gary. "In Northern Virginia, this is unique."

"HERE, THEY recognize you," added Caitlin. "They're friendly and they say, 'Hey, what's up? What are you looking for?' Nobody else has this feeling of 'Hey, how are your doing?'"

Also there with his children — Christina, 8, Tommy, 6, and John, 3 — was Clifton's Michael Anton. "Our kids love it down here," he said. "We live 10 minutes away and end up staying here over an hour, talking with the vendors, and the kids do the crafts. They've made bookmarks, done fingerpainting and, one time, they painted a birdhouse."

Anton, meanwhile, buys tomatoes, corn and watermelon. "Everything's local and fresh — it's great," he said. "Sunday is always fresh-veggie day at home. Last week we made salsa and, sometimes, I make gazpacho." Another time, said Anton, Tommy and Christina bought zipper pulls for their tomagotchis and wife Claudia purchased earrings. What did John get? "Candy," said his dad.

Market Master is Clifton resident Deb Dillard, whose daughter Emily, 7, is having fun selling fresh-cut flowers from their yard. "I grew up in Southern Maryland and we had an Amish market there," said Dillard. "I loved its community; you saw your neighbors, formed relationships with people and got to care about them. I wanted Emily to have the same thing. And now she also knows what it takes to earn money."

Terri and Tom Merz of T & T Apiaries are local beekeepers who've been selling their wares at Clifton's market for five years. "The people are great, and I like just talking with them," said Terri. "It's a nice, friendly place."

"We drink coffee, sit in Mark's chairs [Knauff of Warm Woods of Clifton] and catch up on the local gossip," said Tom. He also noted that one of their products was even sent to a U.S. soldier overseas. "We were doing the Arlington County Fair, and a woman asked if our lip balm attracts flies," said Tom. "We told her no, and she bought some and said she was shipping it to her son in Iraq."

It's the third year at Clifton's market for Lara Wheeler of Maverick Chic Accessories. She makes and sells bracelets, earrings, I.D. chains, children's and adults' beaded bookmarks, jean and shoe charms and her signature item, beaded zipper pulls. And this Sunday, Aug. 20, she'll hold a drawing at her booth for a treasure chest of back-to-school items and surprise treats.

"I ENJOY the small-town atmosphere here," she said. "Everybody's life is hectic in Northern Virginia, but at the Clifton Farmers Market, they know your name." Besides that, said Wheeler, "I live in an apartment and can't grow vegetables and flowers, so I appreciate them here."

Tamu White-Fitzgerald sells functional art at her booth, Handcrafted by Tamu. She uses precious and semi-precious gems and minerals such as amber and turquoise in creating her pendant-length necklaces called MagEyes that have a magnifying glass at one end.

Her specialty is African-inspired, wearable art, and each piece has a story behind it. "I call them Griot collections, named after African storytelling," said White-Fitzgerald. She, too, is delighted to be at Clifton's market and says it's a place that puts children in touch with "everyday, real people."

"It's good for kids to know that not all our food comes from the store," she explained. "This way, it connects children to the reality of where things come from and to the noble craftsmen. They learn that making things with your own hands is valuable because it came from someone's own mind, heart and soul. And they recognize that everybody has within them the ability to create."

Also at the market this summer is Burke Books, which has pledged to send 30,000 books to U.S. military personnel in the danger zones of the Middle East. Customers may contribute $7.53 for postage and Burke Books will send packages of light-hearted reading material to lift the soldiers' spirits.

Upon request, it will also add names to the list of recipients. Donations may be brought to Burke Books' table at the market, or send checks payable to the bookstore to: Burke Used Books, 9570 Burke Road, Burke, VA 22015. Write "books for soldiers" on the memo line.