Old Man Winter can’t stop Virginia farmers’ markets

LEESBURG—Farmers’ markets may seem like a summer event, but many are going strong through the winter months.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national farmers’ market directory lists 116 winter markets operating in Virginia.

The Leesburg Farmer’s Market in Loudoun County is open year-round. Its summer season runs from May through October, and then it switches to the winter market. Market Coordinator Kathryn Willis said the market has a loyal customer base.

“Last year in February we had snow predicted for the afternoon, so we went ahead and opened at 9 a.m.,” Willis recalled. “It started snowing at 8, and by 10 a.m. we had 4 inches of snow but we still had customers!”

During the winter months, markets offer seasonal cold weather produce like greens, as well as fruit, meats, baked goods and canned goods like honey, jellies and jams. “Some vendors choose not to be here in the winter months because it can get unpleasant outside,” Willis said; however, she has 36 vendors signed up for 38 available winter market spots.

“As farmers’ markets have continued to gain in popularity, we’ve seen an increasing number of markets extending their hours into the fall and winter and some even year-round,” said Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist. “Consumers want the opportunity to shop for local food year-round, and if markets are open they will come out and support them.”

Like many other winter farmers’ markets, the Leesburg market also offers seasonal crafts. During November and December, vendors have pottery, knitted goods, wool crafts and more. Many customers seek out honey and fruit-flavored sauces for the holidays, and Willis said the maple syrup vendor’s products are much in demand.

Along with traditional farm products, Willis said, customers are starting to seek out unusual produce. This year one of her vendors is selling kalettes, a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts. “They’re quite good,” she said.

Media: Contact Willis at 540-454-8089 or Banks at 804-290-1114.

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