Freshly-picked produce; local meat, poultry, eggs, and cheese; homemade baked goods; and more make the Del Ray Farmers’ Market worth waking up early on a Saturday morning.
A fixture in the neighborhood for over 25 years, Del Ray’s food and plant-based market was recently named one of the Ten Best Farmers Markets in Virginia by American Towns Media. Despite its growth and popularity, the market remains a tight-knit community — recently, the vendors hosted a post-market surprise party for a farmer getting married. During the peak season, there are over 20 booths featuring locally-grown fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheeses, breads, fresh pasta, baked goods and cut flowers.
“The quality of the food produced by our farmers and vendors is unbelievable, and the diversity of items offered makes our farmers’ market a one-stop shop for the eating healthy and local,” said Del Ray Farmers’ Market Manager Pat Miller. “And our farmers love Del Ray, and return year after year — they truly become a part of our community.”
Zebra takes a look at a few beyond-the-field farmers’ market favorites:
— Ashbank Farm: Many of Del Ray Farmers’ Market’s regular customers have a Saturday ritual — coffee and one of Ashbank Farm’s famous apple cider donuts. Now in her 7th year at the market, Catherine Elstob says she’s “up all night Friday” making hundreds of donuts and other baked goods for the market. When the weather cools down, look for their mobile bakery on Oxford Avenue, and get donuts made-to-order — taking Ashbank Farm’s motto, “always fresh, always homemade” to a new level.
— Cold Country Salmon: Charlottesville farmer Zac Culberson makes delicious, sustainable Alaskan salmon fit into the market’s “shop local” philosophy. After sport fishing in Alaska for years, Culberson started commercial fishing in 2013. Now, he and his team travel to Alaska several times per year; they catch, fillet, and freeze the fish same-day to ensure maximum freshness. The crew — which included Culberson’s 10-year-old son during their July trip — brings in an average 3,000 to 7,000 pounds of salmon per trip.
— Switch Doctor: When Del Ray native Chris Dunning was looking for a natural remedy for his gastrointestinal issues, he discovered switchel, a ginger-based non-alcoholic beverage. “I was blown away by how great I felt,” said Dunning — and immediately wanted to share it with others. He carries up to four flavors at a time, with his latest release, pineapple limeade, the most popular. With back-to-school coming up, keep one in the fridge for the first signs of a cold — Dunning says that many customers tout that the ginger, tumeric, green tea, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup blend is a great immunity booster.
— Together We Bake: At the Together We Bake booth, you’ll find chocolate chip cookies, granola, and empowerment for women. Together We Bake gives women the skills and experience to gain employment after incarceration — and all proceeds from sales go back to the program. Can’t make it to Del Ray on a Saturday morning? The Yates 7-11 at the Braddock Road Metro carries Together We Bake’s goodies throughout the week.
— Tom’s Amish Store: Tom Thompkins has been a fixture at the Del Ray Farmer’s Market for 15 years — so long, Tom says, that “I’ve watched some customers grow up — and now they’re back, buying their own cheese.” Thompkins sells approximately 45 pounds of cheeses each week at the market, made from pasture-raised, hormone and antibiotic-free dairy cows. As the holidays approach, don’t forget to place your order for his famous pumpkin or goat cheesecakes.
— Featured Non-Profit: Every week near the market’s entrance, you’ll find a bake sale or information table for a local nonprofit, charity or school group, reflecting the Del Ray neighborhood’s commitment to giving back to the community.
Visit the Del Ray Farmer’s Market at the intersection of Mount Vernon and Oxford Avenue every Saturday from 8am to 12pm year-round, rain or shine or snow. For more information, visit delrayfarmersmarket.com.