By Don Owens, Outreach Coordinator, Loudoun Farmers Markets
The Loudoun Valley HomeGrown Markets Cooperative (a.k.a., Loudoun Farmers Markets) will celebrate its 25th Anniversary market season beginning in May, 2019. Our original market in Leesburg has been bringing local agriculture and the community together since 1994. Just named Best Farmers Market in Loudoun for 2019, the market boasts more than 50 vendors and serves close to 1,500 customers on a Saturday at the height of the summer season. And today, there are more market locations at which to join in the festivities, as our original single market has grown to five farmers markets spanning Loudoun County from east to west.
When a Leesburg Farmers Market shopper was recently asked why her family shops the market, she replied, “It’s that thing we do on the weekend! We get fresh air and products we know are fresh, too. Plus, it helps us combine fun for the kids while we sneak in a little education about eating healthy food and purchasing quality merchandise from people who bring us their own products, from not far from the market. My husband and I are all about supporting local businesses, so this works out for all of us.”
The sentiments of that customer captured the essence of what Loudoun Farmers Markets is all about. In a day when most food eaten in the U.S. travels nearly 1,200 miles, it is reassuring that your dinner table can boast freshly picked fruit and produce, meats, poultry, dairy products, wines, chocolates, just made baked goods and much more that comes directly to market from within 125 miles. In a time when we hear more about food borne illnesses, knowing that between a farmer and you, far fewer hands actually-touch the products you buy, is a comforting thought.
We encourage customers to get to know and speak to vendors about their farming practices, as many use chemical-free, anti-biotic-free methods in addition to other environmentally safe and sustainable ways of ensuring a healthy, quality product for your family. These are conversations that are not possible to have with that plastic tub of greens at the grocery store. At our markets, if it is important to you, it is important to us.
And, let’s not forget fun and entertainment. Local musicians, often found center market throughout the summer, provide a welcome accompaniment to a cup of coffee and a pastry or, other freshly made market delight. For the kids, we offer many events throughout the year, including our market mascot hunt that occurs at each market, every week. Children who locate the mascot, hidden with a different vendor each week, earn a prize from the Market Manager. And, this spring we will reintroduce the Power of Produce program that is sure to be fun and educational for the children.