RICHMOND—Summer is officially here and so are summer fruits, vegetables and other fresh farm products at Virginia farmers’ markets. Today, there are nearly 250 farmers’ markets across the commonwealth with 3,500 farmers selling directly to the public. “Farmers’ markets provide farmers an opportunity to sell their produce for a better price than what they might receive from a wholesale buyer,” said Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist. “Generally, produce at the markets was picked the day before or that morning, and customers are willing to pay more for guaranteed freshness.” At the Charlottesville City Market, vendors sell fresh produce, herbs, plants, crafts, grass-fed meats, cheeses, baked goods and more. Lucy Lamm, assistant manager of the Charlottesville market, said they have more vendors than ever, and more than 65 percent of the 100 vendors are farmers. “We have quite a few vendors from Albemarle County, but we also have some who come from other areas such as Fredericksburg, Westmorland County and the Eastern Shore,” Lamm remarked. She said consumers are not just interested in buying fresh, healthy products; they want to talk with farmers and get recipe ideas. “More farmers are planning to come this year to perform food demonstrations and show people how to prepare the foods available at the market.” The Strasburg Farmers Market in Shenandoah County is expecting local tomatoes at the market soon. The market offers seasonal produce, farm eggs, honey, cut flowers and crafts and also serves as a pick-up location for local community supported agriculture members. Market Manager Patti Mullin said shoppers are looking for healthy and unique foods. “They are often looking for fresh mushrooms and we have a farmer to meet that demand,” she explained. “At the end of July, a farmer will bring Jerusalem artichokes that are very popular. He makes a delicious artichoke dip too.” Later this summer National Farmers Market Week will be held August 5-11, and Virginia will highlight the key role farmers’ markets play in local communities. Media: Contact Banks at 804-290-1114.