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Posted July 1, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Market value: Local farmers get spotlight at Strasburg's weekly produce sale

Aaron Malbuff sells vegetables to Staton Strother
Aaron Malbuff, right, sells vegetables to Staton Strother, of Strasburg, at the Strasburg Farmers Market in Strasburg's Town Hall parking lot on June 20. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Vegetables and fruit available at the farmers market
Vegetables and fruit available at the farmers market are labled as locally grown or out of state according to where they were harvested. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Baked goods and produce
Baked goods and produce are available each week at the farmers market. Andrew Thayer/Daily

flowers at the farmers market in Strasburg
A non-traditional market, the farmers market in Strasburg offers a wide variety of locally grown plants and flowers for sale. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- Saturday mornings have brought a new hustle and bustle to downtown Strasburg in recent weeks, with local residents turning the quiet Town Hall lot into a marketplace of local produce and goods.

The first day of the Strasburg Farmers Market was June 13, but already it seems to be a success, offering customers basically anything vendors would like to sell.

"I consider the farmers market as a non-traditional market," says Strasburg Farmers Market manager Jeff Taylor. Unlike a traditional farmers market, it offers much more than just locally grown goods like produce and baked goods.

"I want it to be more of a community-knit market," he says. Backyard farmers and "mom and pop" farmers are welcome, he says, whether the farm is a 50-acre plot or a 10-by-10-foot garden.

A recent morning saw local growers selling the first cuttings of green beans, squash and hydroponic tomatoes from Mt. Jackson, home baked goods from local churches, plants to raise money for the Red Cross and even some vine-ripe tomatoes from South Carolina.

The market does not discriminate against out-of-state produce, Taylor says, but the vendors have to state where they grow their products.

"We're working on a barbecue every Saturday," Taylor says. "What you buy, we'll cook it there for you at no extra charge."

Perhaps one of the more non-traditional aspects of the market is its access to local students.

Signal Knob Middle School pupils will be able to grow products through the Future Farmers of America and then sell the produce at the market, as a learning experience, Taylor says. He says the school broke ground on the garden on Monday.

The garden is part of a summer program that will provide extra credit for pupils, he says. Students will come and tend the garden, grow the produce, harvest the crops, and then sell them at the farmers market.

It's kind of gets the parents involved also," Taylor says. "It's a big learning tool all the way around."

The idea for a farmers market had been tossed around for a few years, Taylor says.

"It was really the town [that] wanted a farmers market, as far as being under tourism," he says.

"I felt there was a need to get it started right away," he says. "I privately started the farmers market in '08."

In the beginning the farmers market took place in the former Multistone building, he says. Now, about to celebrate it's one-year anniversary on Saturday, it is in the parking lot of the Strasburg town office building.

He says local interest has been encouraging, especially from the Town Council.

"I would like to see more participation of vendors at the market; there's more strength in numbers," he says.

Taylor, who has begun a nonprofit organization called Plant a Little Love Foundation, hopes to work with civic groups and other nonprofits to raise money for those who need it. Plant a Little Love Foundation aims to raise money for the needy by selling agricultural products for nonprofits, Taylor says.

"I want the farmers market to more be like an ambassador of the town to represent the organizations of the civic groups with the town," Taylor says.

Another goal he has, on which he has already made headway, is to encourage local independent and chain restaurants to buy local produce. Some nearby restaurants are on Taylor's list of locations that want to buy locally once the harvest comes in, including Denny's in Strasburg, but he says Christina's Cafe on King Street is currently the only restaurant buying locally.

"That makes the biggest difference," he says, in the promotion of local growers.

The farmers market takes place each Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., May through October. Anyone is welcome to come by and sell their wares. Those raising money for a cause or who need assistance will be able to find it at the market, Taylor says.

"That's where the foundation comes in. We provide tables, the awnings for those who don't have the money," Taylor says.

"I would hope them to find a pleasant experience ... a good variety of products," Taylor says of anyone who patronizes the market.

"On the customer base, we are very pleased with the support," he says. "We get thanked for being there; it should be the other way around, but we get thanked for being there."

For more information call Jeff Taylor at 703-855-7193 or e-mail him at jtfoxden@yahoo.com.

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