This time of year vendors offer hand-crafted goods, eggs, cole crops like kale and leaf lettuce, flowers, canned goods and a variety of bedding plants, flowers and fresh herbs.
“The vendors are bringing everything they can, but customers are looking for fresh tomatoes and it’s too early for that,” said John Thompson, market advisor for the Fluvanna Farmers’ Market, which opened April 7. “If they want kale or lettuce or soap, we have it. But if they are looking for sweet corn, they need to wait.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports Virginia had nearly 250 farmers’ markets in 2014, making it one of the top 10 states for the popular shopping style.
The Fluvanna market has been in operation since 2006, and Thompson said it gets larger every year. The site is now near a historic home and offers handicapped-accessible restrooms.
As the weather warms up, he said, there will be a wider variety of produce available. Until then, some of his vendors are “just eager to get busy.”
While it’s early yet for consumers to find their favorite local tomato or squash, “more and more growers are finding ways to meet the growing demand for locally grown fruit and vegetables,” said Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist.
Woodbine Farm Market in Shenandoah County utilizes three high tunnels to help grow produce during the winter months so they can sell more than just cole crops in April. The family farm grows asparagus, spring onions, assorted greens and bedding plants in the greenhouse-like structures. Tomato plants are currently flowering, “so we hope to have our own tomatoes in June,” said Holly Dillender, manager of the farm market. Right now the market is supplementing its own produce with tomatoes from Florida.
They also sell hanging baskets, apples from cold storage, beef and fresh eggs. Now in its ninth season, the market opened April 1 and will stay open through Dec. 23. The farm has been in operation since 1898.
“Every year it’s gotten busier, luckily for us,” Dillender said. “We try to add new things every year.”