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Farmer's Market Gets Fresh Start

Warm weather, proximity to voting precincts bring customers to market.

A light breeze carried the aroma of fresh strawberries through the air, making the farmer’s market shopping experience smell just as fresh as the products for sale.

Seven vendors showed up for the Fairfax Farmer’s Market’s opening day, Tuesday, May 2.

“This is an event we always look forward to,” said shopper Phil Coady. “Good fresh produce at reasonable prices."

The pickings were slim, but vendors said the coming weeks and months will produce larger harvests, making for more varieties of produce, herbs and vegetables.

“Some of the plants are really little because it hasn’t been really warm yet,” said Sandy Earp, vendor for Kuhn Orchards of Cashtown, Pa.

Fairfax County Master Growers greeted shoppers at the entrance to the farm. The growers were there to offer advice and information about plant diseases and other plant problems. They encourage people to bring in samples for identification. If they don't know the answer to a specific plant problem, they can send it to an identification lab in Merrifield.

Each farmer's market across the county will have the growers on site to assist shoppers.

JUST PAST the table of friendly growers was the Bristow Chocolates stand, an out-of-home chocolate factory producing truffles and other specialty chocolates. The company’s co-owner and chocolate-maker, Brent Payne, said he broke into farmer’s markets because he wanted to find an easy way to get his business up and running.

“It’s a cheap way to get started,” said Payne. “I’m kind of looking at doing a store, but it’s pretty expensive around here.”

Payne’s home must fall within a 125 mile radius of the market, since rules ensure growers and vendors make and grow all of their products, and that they do it no more than 125 miles away.

Tuesday's market offered some other specialty items one might not expect to see at a farmer’s market. In addition to apple cider, cinnamon basil and rhubarb, some eclectic flavors of fresh jams and jellies were on sale.

“These [jellies] are not something you will find in a regular market,” said Smita Nordwall, a new vendor at the market this year. “I’m like the mad scientist in the family.”

Nordwall makes jams and jellies under the company name, Crackpot Gourmet. Her twist on flavor, she said, is not found in other jams or jellies. One jam, the “Kiss of Keraia,” has roasted strawberries with a touch of black pepper. She said she named it for the Tellicherry pepper, a type of pepper grown in the Indian state of Keraia. Her other flavors included apple-basil jelly, ginger with cayenne pepper jelly, and blueberries with citrus and vanilla. She said her two most unusual flavors both resemble refreshing cocktails. One tastes almost like a tropical drink of grapes, pineapples and Blue Curacao liqueur. And the other jelly is made from tequila, lime, and triple sec.

“It tastes just like a margarita,” said Nordwall.

"It’s all fresh,” said Mary Presta, market master. “It’s the best produce you can buy.”

Presta said the vendors wake up as early as 4 a.m. and their products are often picked just hours before they end up selling them in the markets. Many commute for more than two hours to arrive at the market by 6 a.m., and they often don’t make it home until 4 p.m.

“The farmers work hard,” said Presta.