That’s right, the last day of the Reston Farmers Market 2017 season is Dec. 9. Imagine, when we opened the RFM with the help of Founder Robert Simon and Del. Ken Plum on May 9, 1998, we started with just 12 farmers and our first season concluded on Halloween (Oct. 31, 1998). This year, the Market opened April 29 and will close on Dec. 9. Our 20th season will be a full seven weeks longer than our first year!
What has changed over these first 20 years to enable NoVA’s top-rated farmers market sponsored by the Fairfax County Park Authority to extend its season by so much? Fran and I, the co-Managers of the Market, think the principal reasons are: 1) improved practices, technologies and varieties used by farmers; 2) diversification of varieties grown and products in the market; 3) a warming climate making for a longer growing season in the region serving the market — that is, within 125 miles of Reston; and, 4) demand by RFM shoppers for more products longer.
Farmers now use hoop houses which enable them to plant earlier and harvest later in the year. New varieties have shorter growing seasons and, instead of planting seeds for a given product all at one time, they might plant a few rows every couple of weeks, for example. Thus, corn which used to be available only in July and August now appears in late June and was still available in the market until Oct. 21 this year!
We have added new products to the list of eligibles to be sold in Fairfax County markets. For example, meat, seafood, and dairy products — including milk, ice cream and cheeses — are available year round and were not sold in County markets back in 1998. Also, we’ve added some prepared foods, which are available both earlier and later in the year. And, yes, average temperatures have risen slightly early and late in the season — our piece of climate change perhaps!
Lastly, shoppers are pressing us to extend our season, and producers are increasingly able and anxious to meet that demand. Add it all up and when you come to the Reston Farmers Market on our last day, Dec. 9, you’re likely to find 17 vendors with a selection of veggies and fruits, as well as a wide array of meats, seafood, dairy products, and baked goods among other things!
In the meantime, this Saturday (Oct. 28) not only will the Market have its usual amazing array of homegrown and prepared products, but there will also be special activities and fun for the whole family — music, a guest chef’s cooking demo, pumpkin painting and games for the kids, and a special raffle.
In addition, there will be a brief presentation by Anthem of an impressive $$ contribution to CORNERSTONES for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enabling more lower income beneficiaries to purchase fresh, nutritious locally grown foods for their families at the Market.
We hope you’ll join us this Saturday, and every Saturday morning until the Reston Farmers Market closes on Dec. 9. For more complete info about the Market, go to www.restonfarmersmarket.com.