WASHINGTON—This year’s National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 7-13, marks the 17th annual celebration of markets and the important role they play in local economies. “Farmers’ markets are an important part of strong local and regional food systems that connect farmers with new customers and grow rural economies,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “In many areas, they are also expanding access to fresh, healthy food for people of all income levels. National Farmers Market Week recognizes the growth of these markets and their role in supporting both urban and rural communities.” In the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture, more than 3,500 Virginia farm operators reported selling directly to consumers. The census also reported Virginia has nearly 250 farmers’ markets, compared to 85 in 2005. Over the past decade, consumer demand for local foods and a wider selection of fruits and vegetables has grown. Nancy Ochoa and her family own and operate Ochoa Produce on the Northern Neck near Warsaw, where they farm 28 acres and grow more than 250 varieties of produce throughout the year. “We have weekly customers come to us because we offer many different varieties of traditional types of produce,” Ochoa said. “We are very well-known for our melon selection. We grow seven varieties of cantaloupe and two varieties of watermelon.” They also grow 10 varieties of squash and several varieties of beets, radishes, kale and carrots, even purple potatoes. Bellair Farm, located in Albemarle County, is an 853-acre farm with 30 of its acres devoted to organic produce production for community-supported agriculture and farmers’ markets. “Our goal is to provide flexibility to families, and we are a community-based farm that really wants to meet the needs of those located in Charlottesville,” said Michelle McKenzie, Bellair’s assistant farm manager. “We grow over 50 different crops and several hundred varieties among all the crops,” McKenzie said. “That includes more than 20 varieties of lettuce, eight types of eggplant and four types of broccoli.” Media: Contact Ochoa at 804-761-8813.