As the weather turns warm, a foodie's thoughts automatically turn to weekend farmers' markets. Here are some of the best ones in NoVA for you to try.
The best farmers' markets are producer-only, meaning the vendors have grown or made what they are selling. While there may be bakeries or even restaurants represented, items are considered small-batch and made in-house.
How can you tell if a vendor is a producer? They'll tell you! The farms will advertise their locations, and many of their fruit and veggies may still have dirt or roots attached. If you see someone selling perfect produce, it has likely been purchased at a wholesale market and all you're doing is grocery shopping outside.
Old Town Alexandria Farmers' Market
WHERE: 301 King Street | Alexandria, VA
WHEN: Saturdays, 7 a.m.-12 p.m.
This is the granddaddy of all NoVA farmers' markets ... literally. This is the oldest continuous outdoor market in its location, and it shows. While parking in Old Town can be tricky, the parking lot underneath the market is free from 5:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on market days.
Dale City Farmers' Market
WHERE: Dale Boulevard and Gemini Way | Dale City, VA
WHEN: Sundays, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
At its peak, this market has absolutely everything you would ever want: local fruit, seasonal veggies, freshly baked cakes and breads, kettle corn ... you name it, they've got it. There is plenty of free parking, which is always good, and the later ending time makes this a good market for people who like to sleep in.
Some of the more unique vendors are Semper Fi Fungus, a mushroom forager, and Emerald Bee Bath. Their Beach Bum soaps smell like a beach weekend! For more information, visit the market's Facebook page.
Vienna Farmers' Market
WHERE: 120 Cherry Street SE | Vienna, VA
WHEN: Saturdays, 8 a.m.-12 p.m. | May-October
This producer-only market takes great care to screen its vendors so you're getting the best farm-fresh produce available. After the regular season ends the last Saturday in October, it converts to a Christmas tree lot in late November.
Know Before You Go
- Farmers' markets are rain or shine. Vendors bring tents, so don't let a little drizzle put you off!
- The best you can get is going to be in-season, farm-fresh produce. Sometimes the most fun is cooking what you find, as opposed to looking for specific ingredients.
- While most vendors take credit cards now, cash is always appreciated.
- Bring a cooler and cold packs with you if your market has dairy and meat vendors. You can often find artisanal cheeses, fresh eggs, and forest-bred pork or handmade sausages.
- Prepared foods sold at market in Northern Virginia are inspected by the Health Department, so go ahead and buy your breakfast croissant or empanada!
- Boxes of seconds are often for sale at the end of the market hours. Bruised fruit can be had for $20 per box, and they're just perfect for baking with or making into jam.
If you'd like to find a farmers' market closer to you, take a look at this list of markets in Fairfax County.
**All photos in this article are by Sarina Petrocelly.
What is your favorite local farmers' market? Who are your favorite vendors? Let us know in the comments!