Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food in Herndon

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food in Herndon

The 2018 Herndon Farmers Market opens.

Maryam Heidari of Reston is the first customer at Opening Day for the 2018 Herndon Farmers Market.

Maryam Heidari of Reston is the first customer at Opening Day for the 2018 Herndon Farmers Market. Photo by Mercia Hobson.

Herndon Farmers Market Vendors Partial List

Bread and Water Company, Chef Eloy's Kickin' Salsas, Colvin Run Mill, Fork It issimo catering, Grace's Pastries, GreenFare Organic Cafe, J & W Valley View Farm, McCleaf's Market, Mt Olympus Farm, Pickle Factory, Santa Cruz Produce.


Jose Medina of Santa Cruz Produce in Warsaw, Va. places seedlings grown on the family farm on tables at the Herndon Farmers Market. Cruz got up at 2:45 a.m. to pack his truck and drive the 2-hour trip to Herndon.


Brad McCleaf unloads apples at the Herndon Farmers Market on Opening Day, April 19, 2018.


Manny Medina of J & W Valley View Farm readies produce before shoppers arrive at the Herndon Farmers Market.


Ester Corporan, co-owner of Chef Eloy's Kickin’ Salsa in Sterling, Virginia, stays warm on the first day of the Herndon Farmers Market. The small-scale fresh salsa company offers six different homemade salsas.


Grace Bannhene, owner or Grace's Bakery, is welcomed back to the Herndon Farmers Market on a chilly 2018 Opening Day by Market Manager, John Dudzinsky. ‘Gracie,’ as Dudzinsky affectionately calls Bannhene, is the sole original vendor still at the Herndon Market since it opened 31 years ago.


Harrison Rosenfeld of Bread & Water Company in Alexandria holds up a five-foot-long loaf of bread, called ‘Mediterranean Greek Village Style Country Bread.’ He describes the bread as having a mild sourdough taste with the texture of chewy ciabatta.

It's a little after 6 a.m., Thursday morning, April 19. Dawn won't be for almost an hour. A farm truck crosses Elden Street in the historic district of the Town of Herndon, headlights are on. The truck is loaded with locally grown greens and garden plants. The driver, Jose Medina, turns the steering wheel left and slowly drives his truck up Lynn Street towards the iconic Red Caboose. He's made it in time. Two hours left to get ready.

Medina co-owns Santa Cruz Produce in Warsaw, Va. Medina got up at 2:45 a.m., packed his truck with produce and items grown on the family farm and then drove 117 miles through the night from Warsaw, Va. to get to Herndon. Medina is one of the first farmers to arrive on the Opening Day of the 2018 Fairfax County Park Authority Farmers Market in Herndon. Asked how he grew the luscious-looking greens he is unloading from his truck, Medina says, "We got a couple of greenhouses we start everything in."

TRUCK AFTER TRUCK begin to roll into Herndon, many with fresh produce picked the day before. These too have been grown in greenhouses as well as high tunnels and directly in the ground under black plastic. If planted in the unprotected ground in the winter, the seeds would have died or failed to sprout but protected from the elements, the soil warmed and the plants thrived.

Brad McCleaf, of McCleaf’s Orchard in Biglerville, Pa. pulls his truck onto Lynn Street and climbs out of the cab. He walks around the back of the truck and rolls up the rear door. The inside is packed with produce and plants. Asked what time he got up, McCleaf said, "I was up at 2:30 to pack my truck and drive in." McCleaf takes a moment and stands under the streetlight. It's cold. The temperature is in the 40's. Asked how long of a drive he had, McCleaf said, "It's only about a 2-hour drive. I'm so excited to be here in Herndon but give me a couple of weeks to get used to it again,” he adds with a laugh.

Manny Medina of J & W Valley Farm is ahead of the game. He sets up his farmer's market tent in a flash. He brings the produce out of the truck, lots of it. The family strives hard to offer their Herndon customers, and all their market customers, the freshest best-tasting fruits and vegetables possible. Like the other farmers and producers at the market, Medina can only sell at the market what the family raises on their farm or makes from scratch. "This is my first of the season farmer's market," says Manny Medina “We started planting the 22nd of January, lettuce and greens. The first and second week of March, we started putting seeds outside in the ground, like peas, beans and corn, in rows of black plastic. We have 80 rows, 900 feet each."

Medina's farm, J & W Valley Farm, is located in Montross, Va., and is a 108-mile drive to Herndon. Fairfax County Park Authority requires that all farmers and producers come no farther than a 125-mile radius of Fairfax County.

James Bourne is the owner of The Lamb's Quarter, a colonial-era family farm in Southern Maryland. Bourne farms on land that has been owned and farmed by his family since 1690. They specialize in high quality, sustainably raised meat, grass-fed beef, pork and lamb. Their free-range poultry products include eggs, chicken and turkeys and they raise more than three dozen different vegetables, without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers. Bourne was eager to share his thoughts about the Herndon Farmers Market.

"The Fairfax County Park Authority Market here in Herndon is my first market of the season,” Bourne said. This is my fourth year in Herndon, and by far Herndon is my best mid-week market. The people are great. I continue to deliver up here through the winter to keep my customers happy. I have a fantastic customer base."

JOHN DUDZINSKY is the Herndon Market Manager. He walked up to Grace Bannhene, owner of Grace's Bakery, as she was setting up and welcomed her back.

"Grace's Pastries located in Herndon is the only original vendor remaining from when the market first started in 1989," said Dudzinsky. "We're so glad Gracie comes every year." Grace Bannhene spoke about the freshness of her pastries. "Everything is done at the premises. These products we baked last night and loaded up."

Another bakery was also at the Herndon market, but it offered different products than Grace's Bakery. New to the Herndon Farmer’s Market was Bread & Water Company, an Artisan Bakery and Cafe located in Alexandria and Arlington. The bakery is committed to local farmers and choosing to use seasonal produce as much as possible. The bakers prepare foods based on local availability, a big plus with Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park states on their website, "We encourage our vendors to use local ingredients in the creation of their products as much as possible."

Harrison Rosenfeld, distribution manager and vendor for Bread & Water Company, said, "We bake fresh daily. The people in the bakery are very talented." He then walked over and held up a five-foot-long loaf of bread, called “Mediterranean Greek Village Style Country Bread.” It is sold in 4-inch segments. Harrison explained, "The bakers start with 30 pounds of dough with olive oil. The bread has a mild sourdough taste with the texture of chewy ciabatta."

There are eleven vendors at the Herndon Farmers Market, which opened April 19, 2018, and will run through Nov. 8, 2018. The hours are 8 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. The market is located in Old Town Herndon, 700 Block of Lynn Street by the Red Caboose. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT cards can be used at the Herndon Fairfax County Farmers Market. The Virginia Fresh Match Program will match up to $20 per market visit for free fruits and veggies.