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Seasonal farmers’ markets open with fresh, local products

LEESBURG—Virginia residents now have the opportunity to buy fresh, locally grown produce at seasonal farmers’ markets that open in May.

Virginia is home to more than 220 farmers’ markets, which ranks the state ninth nationwide. Many are open from early May through late fall, while others operate year-round. All of them provide consumers access to locally grown food and interaction with the people who grow it.

“They’ll ask me where a certain cut of beef comes from on the cow, and I can give them an idea of what to cook or what cut of meat they’ll need for a recipe,” said Chris Hatch, a Loudoun County farmer who sells grass-fed beef, honey and lamb at the Leesburg Farmers Market on Saturdays year-round and at the recently opened Cascades Farmers Market in Sterling on Sundays through November.

Bill and India Cox, who grow specialty produce at Casselmonte Farm in Powhatan County and sell at the local market on Thursdays and at the South of the James Market in Richmond’s Forest Hill Park each Saturday, said making food shopping fun and educational is the key to success at a farmers’ market.

“We like supporting local people,” said John Ealding, one of the Coxes’ regular customers. “We like seeing produce right in front of us at the market and then later seeing it on our dinner table.”

Bill Cox said he’s beginning to see people shopping for their weekly groceries at the markets instead of the grocery store.

And each year, the number of customers at farmers’ markets tends to grow, the farmers said.

Betsy and Rusty East of Pittsylvania County said their honey sold out last year. “And Betsy sells the [honey] lotion bars like crazy,” Rusty East said. The couple also sells beeswax candles and mead each Saturday at the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex’s summer farmers’ market in Chatham.

The Easts said people who shop at farmers’ markets tend to ask lots of questions and want to know about the products they’re buying.

All of the farmers said they have repeat customers.

“I try to price my products well and to be as user-friendly as possible,” Hatch said. “If someone is unsatisfied with a product, I encourage them to bring it back for another product.”

Contact Cox at 804-598-2457 or Hatch at 703-727-4210.

 

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