Around F.C.

F.C.’s Farmers Market Brings Unity to the Community

For almost 40 years, the Falls Church Farmers Market has put unity in the community. 

Open year-round every Saturday, the Little City’s farmers market has been a place for both farmers and small, local businesses to have a direct producer-to-consumer interaction, as well as a gathering place for neighbors to meet up with one another. 

Jennifer Brady, the farmers market manager, said the market is one of the oldest in the region, started in 1984 by Howard Herman. The former director of recreation and parks for the city, Herman wanted Falls Church to have a farmers market after growing and selling vegetables at a market in Alexandria, while also hearing from residents of a need for natural, healthy and organic foods. 

“It has had a strong focus on being producer-only, which you don’t always see at all farmers markets,” Brady said when talking about one of the market’s many missions.  

Starting almost 40 years ago, the Falls Church Farmers Market is unique compared to other local markets based on its strong focus on being “producer-only.” (Photo: Jennifer Brady)

Although the market takes place every Saturday like fellow markets, the city’s farmers market is open year-round, a decision Brady said was made 13 years ago due to people wanting an extension in the season. Even during the winter months, Brady said the market “doesn’t lose momentum” of having customers, as dairy and meat farmers are able to sell their items. 

“They’re really able to provide local produce all year long, which gives you more ways that you can invest your money locally to support small businesses year-round instead of having to shift gears and go to the grocery store,” Brady said. 

This summer will see an increase of visitors for the market, as Brady said the summer season is a “very popular” time for the farmers market due to vacationers and the weather being “beautiful.” Brady also said items such as tomatoes, peaches and corn are the most sought-after during the market’s summer season. 

“Those are probably the three top things that people want to get from the farmers market,” Brady said. “They’re all in season in the middle of the summer.” 

As for how local businesses become a part of the market, Brady said they only accept farmers or food-based vendors to make sure that local farmers are supported by these businesses. There are two rounds of applications: one in September for the winter season and one in January and February for the spring/summer/fall season. Brady said they give priority to returning vendors, then additional vendors are chosen based on what their “most unique” product is. 

“It’s been such a great farmers market for so many years that the returning vendors want to be back every season,” Brady said. “It’s a reliable source of income for [farmers] to be able to sustain their small family farms.” 

Every year, a vendor at the market is voted “favorite vendor,” with local businesses such as Kate’s Crepes, Borek-G and Jinlan Wenhua proving to be popular vendors amongst visitors. 

“Some [local businesses] have been able to really grow their businesses,” Brady said. “It raises a lot of awareness about the benefits of buying your food locally or from small businesses.” 

Brady said the farmers market sees a “diverse mix” of the community, with Brady saying she has met new and older individuals who come out or travel every week to attend the market. 

One benefit the farmers market has seen since the pandemic was vendors learning how to create websites for people to order market items online. While some vendors can choose to take cash from buyers, Brady said every vendor has a cashless payment system due to the pandemic. 

On how the farmers market contributes to the sense of community in the Little City, Brady said she believes it to be a place where “everybody puts aside their differences” because they are “celebrating food,” something that can make people “happier and friendlier.” 

“I see people at the farmers market more frequently than I see most of my friends,” Brady said. “It becomes a very strong community rooted in this shared love of local food.”