This list is subject to change
DOWNTOWN SILVER SPRING
Saturday, 10am to 1pm
Audia's Farm North
Bread and Water Company
Elk Run Vineyards
Hillside Meadow Farm
North Cove Mushrooms
Number 1 Sons
Quaker Valley Orchards
Spring Valley Farm and Orchard
Suttler Post Farm
Tenth Ward Distilling Company
Three Springs Fruit Farm
Twin Valley Distillers
Sunday, 8:30am to 1:30pm
Black Rock Orchard
Blue Ridge Dairy Co.
Breezy Meadow Farms
Clear Spring Creamery
Cucina Al Volo
Endless Summer Harvest
Gordy's Pickle Jar
Little Wild Things City Farm
New Morning Farm
North Cove Mushrooms
Number 1 Sons
O Earth Creamery and Bakehouse
Old World Breads
One Eight Distilling
Potomac Vegetable Farms
Quaker Valley Orchards
Right Proper Brewing
Smith Meadows Meats
Spring Valley Farm and Orchard
The Red Zebra
Twin Springs Fruit Farm
Zayt & Za'atar
Eli Cook of Spring Valley Farm & Orchard fell in love with farming at an early age. A first-generation farmer, he began his career in farmers markets by selling a few baskets of vegetables from his family's garden as a boy. In his teenage years, he started expanding the family plot, and by the time he was 17 and a senior in high school he was growing 10 acres of vegetables and selling at several farmers markets in the DC area. Now, after over 25 years of farming, Eli has 350 acres in cultivation, has sold at over 50 farmers markets in four states, and has made Spring Valley Farm & Orchard one of the most recognizable farm businesses in the region.
Eli figured out early on that "there are a lot of good farmers, and a lot of good business people, but not always a lot of farmers who are business people." Determined to excel at both, he studied business, marketing, and accounting in college and developed a solid business plan for his farm, all while continuing to work on the farm as much as possible. After graduating, he applied for the Dupont Circle farmers market in 2002. "That was the real beginning," Eli remembers. "Dupont was by far the biggest and best market in the city," and selling at the market gave him a chance to firmly establish his business. Around the same time, he got married to his wife Misty and bought a 52 acre farm, and began leasing an orchard. Spring Valley Farm & Orchard kept growing from there, and now boasts 13 greenhouses, 16 full-time, year-round employees, and up to 90 seasonal employees at the peak of the season.
A major part of Eli's success has been his focus on the farm's brand. While he and his wife Misty might not be at every market each week, shoppers recognize Spring Valley for their iconic red tents, red staff shirts, and bountiful displays of produce. Whether they're shopping at Dupont Circle, Downtown Silver Spring, or northern Virginia farmers markets, "customers recognize our brand and know they are getting a quality product," Eli says. He spent a lot of time in his early years at market observing what techniques worked and what didn't to create a successful display. He also carefully monitors shoppers' preferences, observing the shift over the past decade toward a desire for quick, easy-to-prepare foods that don't require a lot of cook time.
Even for a successful farm like Spring Valley, the farmers market scene can be challenging. The number of farmers markets in the region has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, and Eli notes that while this presents opportunities to expand, it sometimes means less revenue per market. He also emphasizes how important it is for farmers to take a break at the end of the season if they are able; he sees farmer burnout as a huge problem for small family farms.
With challenges come new business ventures: while the DC area may seem saturated with markets, Eli has discovered a new interest in local food in his own West Virginia community over the past few years. He now operates two permanent farm stores in West Virginia and has seen growing demand from his neighbors for the products he his growing. Spring Valley sells their own local produce at the farm stores, as well as meat, cheese, milk, and eggs from other local growers. Eli is proud to be able to create economic opportunities for farmers in his tri-county area and is pleased to see that the demand for locally grown food is expanding outside of urban centers. He is eager to see other farmers succeed: "I wouldn't be where I am today without the help of other growers mentoring me," he says, and he is always willing to share his own farming and marketing tips and secrets with new farmers just getting started.
Taste the deliciousness of locally grown produce from Spring Valley Farm & Orchard for yourself! You'll find their welcoming red tents at both the Downtown Silver Spring and Dupont Circle markets this weekend.
You may notice something a bit different at farmer Zach Lester's stand at the Dupont market these days: his sign now reads Potomac Vegetable Farms (PVF), rather than Tree & Leaf Farm. Zach recently transitioned to Potomac Vegetable Farms, a woman-owned 100-acre farm in Virginia that has been in operation for over 50 years. Zach now farms as an employee of PVF and brings his 20 years of experience to their operation. Over the years, his farming career has taken him though lots of changes - including moving six times in two decades! - but the one thing that has never changed is his commitment to growing beautiful, vibrant vegetables that nourish his customers and his land.
Zach initially started Tree & Leaf Farm in 1998 in Fauquier County, VA as a contracting business with a focus on landscape gardens, wildflower meadows, and planted trees. He planted a small truck patch garden as a side business that provided produce for a CSA for two years. As the garden grew, he started selling at two local farmers markets. At the time, Zach and his wife Georgia O'Neal were just beginning their family and had the opportunity to rent land from their friends the Planks, local farmers who were looking to retire and downsize and wanted a young farmer to manage their land. Zach rented a small vegetable farm and house from them, as well as took over their stalls at two farmers markets: Falls Church and Dupont.
As Zach's business grew, he was able to buy his own 50 acre farm in Orange County, VA in 2009. Over the years, Tree & Leaf Farm became a favorite stand at the Dupont Circle farmers market, known for beautiful greens, unique heirloom varieties of vegetables, and sustainable growing practices. However, at the end of 2017, Zach knew it was time for something different, and moved back to his home in Loudoun County, VA to farm for Potomac Vegetable Farms on a leased 5-acre plot.
Potomac Vegetable Farms is managed by Hiu Newcomb (who started the farm with her husband), her daughter Hana Newcomb, and Carrie Nemec. This family farm has mentored, supported, and worked with many beloved farmers in the area, including Heinz Thomet of Next Step Produce and Stacey Carlberg and Casey Gustowarow of the Farm at Sunnyside. Zach already had a long history with PVF: he had done contract growing for them over the years, and they were instrumental in helping him purchase his farm when he first bought his land. Upon returning to Loudoun County to work for PVF, Zach says, "it was clear that it was time to integrate. And the beauty of the story is that this larger, older farm was able to keep me farming, and keep farm land in production...after a ten year relationship, it felt like the natural time to join forces."
Zach and PVF both benefit from this new partnership, and market shoppers will, too! By teaming up with PVF, Zach is able to access the resources and staff of a larger farm, and he's excited to bring more perennial crops like blueberries to market this year. Zach and PVF share the same dedication to "ecoganic" practices that nurture the soil and foster the growth of nutritious, beautiful vegetables. Zach looks forward to using his year-round growing skills to help PVF extend their season and grow their winter CSA. While relocating a farm is never easy, Zach is happy to be growing in the fantastic soils of Loudoun County. He sees the opportunity in being on new land: "I come up with new ideas each time I move, and there's a little bit of reinvention," he says.
What will this new partnership look like at market? Keep an eye out for more produce, new vegetable varieties, and a fresh look at the Potomac Vegetable Farms stand. And rest assured that the amazing vegetables and high standards you have come to expect from Zach will continue! Stop by this Sunday at the Dupont Circle market to get your fill.
The pickle people at Number 1 Sons have been selling their fermented pickles, kimchis, and krauts at farmers markets since 2012. Brother-sister team Yi Wah and Caitlin Roberts are committed to local sourcing and developing strong relationships with regional farmers, and they are a prime example of how our FRESHFARM producers help strengthen our local food systems. "We've made some really neat connections and realizations about our sourcing," says Caitlin. "Credit would go to the farmers we meet at markets and the PASA conference (which FRESHFARM scholarships helped us attend) and educational opportunities that we've come in contact with via our customers and fellow vendors at market."
Number 1 Sons has several fun projects in the works to expand their product line and bring more tasty ferments to the masses. You may have spotted their spicy and mischievous chili bears at the market. These bears are filled with hot sauces featuring a variety of locally grown peppers that are fermented in a salt brine, then blended with vinegar for a hot sauce with complex flavor and lots of heat. Number 1 Sons buys hundreds of pounds of hot peppers from their market friends at the Farm at Sunnyside and Barajas Produce to make their hot sauces, which incorporate interesting varieties of peppers that farmers (particularly Casey of the Farm at Sunnyside) love to grow but can't necessarily sell at the farmers market.
While most of Number 1 Sons' products are live fermented, their sweeter products are pickled in vinegar (live fermentation in a salt brine would consume all the sugars that give sweet pickles their flavor). Yi Wah and Caitlin wanted to find a vinegar that was in line with their food philosophy, and now source apple cider vinegar from White House Foods in Winchester, Virginia, a company that is over 100 years old and sources the apples for their vinegar from local farms. This live, raw vinegar is used in Number 1 Sons' cider masala beets, honey habanero daikons and pickles, and to finish their hot sauces.
Number 1 Sons' commitment to seasonality and locally available ingredients means that some of their products are not available year-round, which is why you won't see cucumber pickles in their barrels in winter. Yi Wah and Caitlin rotate their classic cucumber pickles in the summer with daikon radish pickles in the colder months. They use the same recipe, just replacing the cukes with cold-hardy daikons. These pickles still have all the flavor, and some customers have come to prefer the daikons to the cucumber pickles!
"We get so much good feedback from our market customers and market neighbors," says Caitlin. While Number 1 Sons may be newer to the farmers markets than some of their farmer partners, she views the business as helping to broaden the local food scene: "If our product brings new shoppers to the market, we're also bringing them to farmers who have been at the market for decades." Get your fill of delicious, sour, local, living pickles and ferments this weekend at both FRESHFARM winter markets!
By Julia Feder, Executive Director
One evening over the holiday season, I found myself a thousand miles from home, bracing for a two-hour plane ride with my overtired daughter. Those who’ve found themselves in similar situations know the best thing you can do in this moment is seek out other parents and let the kids be kids for as long as possible.
Spotting a Thomas the Train roller bag, I let me daughter beeline for a father traveling with his son. While our kids got to business watching airplanes out the window, the parents had a familiar DC exchange. What area of the city do you live in? Part of the government or one of the rest of us?
This gave me a chance to try out the pitch for my new role and what FRESHFARM does. “I am the new Executive Director for an organization bringing healthy, local food to residents across the region. We’re make connections between those of us living in cities to farmers and farming through markets, school programs, and food access efforts,” I started to explain.
“Oh, FRESHFARM! We go to the H Street market every weekend,” he exclaimed. “We have our favorite farmers. Especially the one on the end who has everything – veggies, meat. We get it all from him.”
This is what FRESHFARM does. We operate the market near you and run programs in your neighborhood school. We build bridges between cityscapes and sweeping farmland. Even more so, we build connections and we’re helping to shape your community.
In this season of resolutions, there’s much that FRESHFARM looks forward to doing in the year ahead. We resolve to make sure you and all your neighbors have access to the freshest, healthiest foods. We resolve to build inviting places for you to linger on a warm evening after work, and with music for your kids to dance to on weekend mornings while munching on fresh baked goodies. We resolve to make the houses and apartments you live in, the streets you walk down, and the schools you go to everyday more than just part of where you live. We resolve to be a part of making this place your home.
Cheers to good food and building a great community in the year ahead. We can’t wait for you to join us in making this happen.