Enjoying the beautiful Northern Virginia weather isn’t the only perk of our post-winter weather thaw. From May until November, we also have an opportunity to enjoy the area’s agriculture and support our local farmers by attending Fairfax County’s farmers markets. In doing so, we can also support the local economy and the environment.
The first farmers market was established in Fairfax County in 1978. Since then, Fairfax County has become home to 11 weekly farmers markets. Stocked with the freshest fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy products, breads, meats, flowers and plants from the region near to our county, these markets provide local farmers with the opportunity to sell their products and gives community members access to a level of quality and freshness rarely found elsewhere.
While many of us enjoy these markets year after year, few of us know the role Fairfax County plays in supporting these efforts. The County supervises these markets through the Community Horticulture office of the Fairfax County Park Authority. On a day-to-day basis, however, the markets are managed by volunteer Market Masters. The Market Masters are crucial to the success of the farmers markets; they are responsible for the development and promotion of each of the markets, as well as coordinating with each of the farmers who will be participating. Each volunteer brings a unique set of skills to each individual market.
Buying produce from Fairfax County’s farmers markets doesn’t just help support local farmers, but it also benefits our local economy. A special feature of Fairfax County farmers markets is that all 11 are deemed “producers only” markets. This means that every vendor must come from within a 125-mile radius of Fairfax County and must grow all of the products they sell. Since many of these farms are located within the state, if each household in Virginia pledged to spend just $10 a week on locally grown agricultural products, it would bring $1.65 billion into the Virginia economy each year!
Not only do these farmers markets benefit our local economy and our health, they are also environmentally friendly. Often, when you buy local produce, you are supporting sustainable farming practices that help prevent soil fertility loss, as well as reduce pesticide and fertilizer runoff into the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Making a visit to one of Fairfax County’s farmers markets can also become a fun summer tradition that the entire family can enjoy. Our farmers markets provide a fun atmosphere for children, and can be a great opportunity for them to experience Virginia’s agriculture first-hand. In fact, oftentimes, farmers will provide introductions of their products, and great recommendations for preparing the products they grow.
There are many reasons why these farmers markets are worth supporting. I encourage you to take a look at this year’s market schedule at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/wp-farm-mkt.htm and make a weekly commitment to attend one of the 11 markets being held in Fairfax County. I think you’ll be glad you did!