By Regan Kireilis and James Cullum
There are four weekly farmer’s markets in Alexandria, but which one has what you are looking for? It is widely agreed that buying local produce is beneficial to your health and pocketbook. At each market in Alexandria, residents can find a variety of fresh homemade pasta and sauces, bakery-fresh bread and farm-fresh produce. Each farmer’s market has its own strengths – for example, the best market to buy flowers is not necessarily the best place to buy meat or vegetables. Below is the alexandrianews.org guide to local farmer’s markets.
The ground rules for any market go as follows: if you want the pick of the litter, then arrive as early as possible, but if you want a bargain, arrive toward the end of the market; it is wise to bring along a bag for your produce or plants; be choosy since most vendor’s will let prospective customers sample fruit and veggies and always bring cash because certain vendors do not accept credit cards.
Market Square Farmer’s Market
301 King Street
Open year-round on Saturdays from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
The Market Square Farmer’s Market includes arts and crafts, produce, meat, fruit, vegetables and flowers. For the greatest variety, this market is the best in the City. Many of the farmers and vendors are from farms in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. While this market is the largest in the City, the best thing about it is the flowers. From exotic to common flowers, whatever bloom you may buy will be beautiful and healthy. One vendor, Wally World, sells a wide range of greenhouse-grown flowers and imported flowers for reasonable prices. Also, each week, Farmer Lucia Stolberg sells her exotic flowers and edible produce at great prices.
Del Ray Farmer’s Market
Corner of East Oxford Avenue and Mount Vernon Avenue
Open Saturdays through December, 8 a.m. to noon
The Del Ray Farmer’s Market is much smaller than the Market Square market, however, for grow-your-own produce, there is no competition. For a healthy assortment of heirloom vegetable seedlings, there is no better farmer than MB Gardens of Strasberg (heirloom produce contains twice as many nutrients as regular produce).In addition to selling nearly 50 varieties of tomato seedlings from around the world, MB Gardens sells excellent peppers, okra and eggplant seedlings and sells a variety of herbs.
Tom’s Amish Cheese Store and More is awesome and sells farm-fresh eggs, cheese, yogurt, canned produce and baked goods – all made by an Amish community in Pennsylvania. During the market, Vera’s Bakery makes freshly squeezed orange juice from chilled oranges and St. Elmo’s sells hot, fresh coffee.
West End Farmer’s Market
Ben Brenman Park, 4800 Brenman Park Drive
Open Sundays through October, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
This farmers’ market, featuring home baked-goods, vegetables, fruits, honey, eggs, breads and pastries, is one-of-a-kind on the City’s West End. On the first Sunday every month local artisans and craftspeople sell their products and services. For family fun in a park setting, this farmer’s market is a great way to end a weekend of activity. The market is comprised of vendors who sell from the other Alexandria markets.
Upper King Street Fresh Farmers’ Market
King Street Gardens Park, 1806 King Street
Open every Wednesday until October 28, 3 p.m to 7 p.m.
It’s nice to have a Wednesday market, because typically, fruit should be eaten within four days of being bought. This market provides a great opportunity to replenish those stocks at home. It features produce from local farmers, fresh flowers and fruits and vegetables. The Culpeper-based Cibola Farms free-range buffalo meat is low fat, high-protein and great tasting. Cibola Farms sells low-price buffalo jerky and other meat snacks. It’s easier to find organic chicken or beef, but it is hard to find a good buffalo sirloin for $13.40 per pound or even raw buffalo dog food for $3.75 a pound.