It was a cold and windy day on Saturday, Dec. 3 at the first of three Falls Church Holiday Farmers Market, but the weather didn’t stop customers from buying cold gazpacho soup at Chris’ Market.
“I sell it now [but] my customers demand it year round,” says Chris Hoge, the chef. “It can be heated up.”
Little City shoppers can soak up the cheer, sample local and regional eats, smell the potpourri and the wreaths and enjoy the smiles at City’s Holiday Farmers Market. For those who missed the merriness on December 3, the seasonal market is open December 10 and 17. In addition to the usual wares available at the market, there are crafts, gifts, trees, wreaths and other festive items.
Howard Herman is the founding father of the Falls Church market, and he’s still minding the store and the information table where he’s been stationed for all 33 years of its existence.
New at the holiday market this season, Herman says, is the sheep shop run by Gretchen Frederick and Sue Bundy, partners in Solitude Wool in Round Hill in Loudoun County which sells yarn, sweaters, baby blankets, rugs, scarves and other goods from sheep they and others breed in Virginia.
Herman’s favorite food at the market this time of year is apples, and over at Black Rock Orchard nearby, Emily Zaas had 17 varieties for sale.
“Hmmm,” she says, when considering which apple is her top seller, and she consulted an employee who agreed with the boss lady on Stayman Winesap, Gold Rush and Pink Lady.
“This is the best farmer’s market there is,” Zaas says in-between helping a line of customers. “It’s the farthest for me to travel [from the Maryland Pennsylvania border], but it’s the nicest with a friendly market, a lot of families. They’re conscientious about using their own bags. It’s a very loyal market.”
She was headed to Dupont Circle’s market on Sunday, “a hectic place where people shop once.” But there is an intimacy to the Falls Church Holiday Farmers Market.
At the lettuce lady’s stand, love was in the air. “I love her,” says Cristin Reed, a regular customer, about the lettuce lady.
“[And] I love her,’” says the lettuce lady about Reed, who shopped with her children, Lucy, 10, and Cleo, 7. The Reed family lives down the street from the Farmers Market.
The lettuce lady is Mary Ellen Taylor of Purcellville, dressed sort of like a leprechaun in green hat and coat. The Reeds have been shopping at Taylor’s since the Reed children were babies. “This is our ‘happy place’ to be,” Reed says. “It’s a lot of fun here. People know my children by name. The foods here help my children learn about seasonability.”
Down at the other end of the market was Rhonda Stevenson from Toms Brook in Shenandoah County, Virginia, who was assembling and tying big red and green ribbons for the boxwood and fir wreaths she sells, but she was able to easily talk, cut, design, create and attach without looking up.
A customer stood and patiently waited while Stevenson made and then tied a large cloth ribbon to a wreath. They sell between $25 and $55, depending upon the size.
Stevenson had some advice for rosemary tree buyers: Don’t buy them at chain stores since shippers fail to adequately water them and they meet quick deaths. She knows. After she heard several complaints, she tested two of them herself which quickly became brown brushes, but she’s selling them now and makes the extra effort to water them sufficiently.
At the information table, passers-by waved at Herman who called them and greeted them by name, and gave them blue grocery sacks, courtesy of Inova.
“You can get it all here,” he says. “Fresh food, locally grown and we’re helping local producers from Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia stay in business.”