Alexandria, VA – Some might call farming a lost art, with supermarkets and grocery stores around every corner. But the farmers market is here to ensure that tradition stays alive and well. Farmers markets are pervasive in the greater Alexandria area, with one nearly every day of the week.
Vendors travel from near and far to sell their wares, ranging from fresh produce to baked goods and even apothecary needs. You might recognize some of the vendors from the local shops they own around town; others you might remember from their loyal attendance at a particular market; still others you might not recognize at all, as the markets receive new vendor applications regularly.
The depth of Alexandria’s farmers market is laudable. From fledgling to thriving, the market scene in Alexandria has developed with speed and grace. We boast the oldest market in the country, new and unique vendors and activities, and everything you could need in between.
The Old Town Farmers Market has been held since 1753 and is believed to be the oldest farmers market in the country held continuously at the same site. George Washington sent produce from Mt. Vernon to be sold here.
Meanwhile, the Old Town North market started just five years ago in 2016 and offers items beyond produce. You will find samples of sorbet, vegan fudge, musical performances, and even fresh-air yoga sessions at the Old Town North market.
From way up in Fairlington down to Mt. Vernon, each Alexandria vendor embodies the spirit and history of the Alexandria markets. Here are the stories of three of them. After all, what is a farmers market without its farmers?
Del Ray and Biggs Family Produce
The Del Ray Farmers Market, located at Pat Miller Square next to Stomping Ground Biscuits, began in September 1994. It has grown immensely over its 26 years, starting as a specifically organic market, then a farmers-only market, to its current array of farmers, local shop owners, master gardeners, nonprofits, and politicians. It even had to acquire a second lot due to both pandemic-related protocol and popularity.
Biggs Family Produce has been at the Del Ray market since its beginning. They have seen the Del Ray market grow over the years, and they have grown right along with it.
“My parents, when this market started, they started coming here,” says Brenda Goddard, who runs the stand. “When they decided to retire, my husband and I took it over. I grow the produce, my niece does the eggs, and my daughter does the flowers. My parents always did produce, so we’ve branched out.”
Farming has been in Brenda’s family for generations. Her grandfather was a farmer, and then her parents bought their farm in Charles County in 1961. “We’ve been a farming family for probably close to 100 years,” she says. “Then my husband and I started doing the markets in 2011.”
Today, Brenda Goddard runs the stand with the help of her husband and niece, Taylor Burch. “When I was a baby, my mom would have me here in a play pin,” she says. Taylor started working at the cash register when she was 12. She now studies agriculture at the University of Maryland to carry on the family business in the future.
Every Saturday from April to Thanksgiving, you will find Biggs Family Produce in Del Ray. The market is open year-round, but their produce is seasonal, and they only offer the cream of their crop. Del Ray is also the only farmers market Brenda and her family go to, having found a home in Pat Miller Square. “It is a neat thing to carry on the family business,” says Brenda.
From gorgeous flowers to a rainbow of vegetables, Biggs Family Produce offers the highest quality seasonal produce. Potatoes, green beans, leafy greens, and sunflowers are what you see upon entering their stand. The tent covers a parking space and a half, so no one will go wanting for fresh food when shopping from Biggs Family Produce.
Pat Miller, a founding member of the Del Ray Farmers Market, advocates for Biggs Family Produce and all the other vendors. “We get outstanding farmers,” says Pat. “All of the vendors we have right now are absolutely amazing.”
This buzzing market in the heart of Del Ray is home to happy vendors and happy customers, who seem to keep getting happier with time.
Old Town North and WOW Fudge
The Old Town North Farmers Market, which opened in 2016 in Montgomery Park in the Old Town North neighborhood of Alexandria, is known for its eclectic vendors, welcoming anyone from Seichou Karate in the Montgomery Center to Passionately Pets products, from vegan and gluten-free sorbet to live musical performances, all in addition to traditional produce stands.
A new vendor to the Old Town North market fits right in with the market’s fun and flare. WOW Fudge, formerly known as Chocolate Moonshine Company, is a woman-owned family business operating out of Pennsylvania. Dianna and Michelle Booth, a mother a daughter duo, were at the market.
Since 1983, Dianna’s sister-in-law’s sister has been making fun flavors of fudge in Pennsylvania, sourcing all ingredients from Pennsylvania farmers. Wanting to expand her market beyond Pennsylvania, she reached out to Dianna in Virginia. Dianna brought her daughter on board, and things were full steam ahead.
Dianna and Michelle’s first farmers market was at the beginning of June. They have been vending at markets all over Virginia ever since. The pair used to live in Alexandria, so it made sense to come back to the area. “We love coming back here to do business,” says Dianna.
For Michelle, though, these markets are more than just business. “The first day we tried it, I liked it right there,” Michelle says. “It is the interaction with people as well as business.”
Interacting with people is one of the beautiful things about attending farmers markets, especially after the pandemic deprived everyone socially. But Michelle has goals beyond business and social interaction. Next fall, she plans to attend George Mason University and earn a double major in Business Management and Information Systems and Operation Management and a minor in International Finance. She will put the money made selling fudge at the markets towards her degree. “Everything about this helps build everything for me to finish my degree,” she explains.
Dianna was awash with pride for her daughter’s ambition and aspirations. “It is very emotional,” says Dianna, “because I never went to college. So for me, her wanting to do this and actually pay for college versus having all this debt is huge.”
Woman-owned, family-operated, and education-funding, WOW Fudge is a special company, with equally special ingredients. Each fudge flavor is built on a base of pure cream, butter, and cane sugar, which combines to withstand even the 95-degree heat Alexandria has been experiencing recently.
Every item is gluten-free, and there are some vegan options made with oat milk. Who would say no to vegan chocolate and peanut butter? While some flavors are familiar, think mint chocolate or peanut butter, others are eccentric, like Unicorn Poo and Dill Pickle. Classic flavors stay in rotation, while others are seasonal. Be sure to return to WOW Fudge later this year for lemon meringue and apple caramel. The fudge is made in large slabs and divided into loaves available for purchase in ¼ lb or ½ lb increments.
Dianna and Michelle loved their time in Old Town North. If you missed them, are you wondering, will they be back? “Oh yes!” Dianna exclaims. “This is the second Alexandria market we have done, and once you start knowing the vendors, you become friends.”
WOW Fudge also sells across the east coast and northeast, traveling from South Carolina to Ohio, to events like Comic Con, dog shows, and summer festivals. These vendors are well-traveled, but if you are not, visit their website, wowfudge.com to explore over 150 flavors.
Sherwood Hall and The Traveling Shepherd Coffee
For nearly 30 years, the McCutcheon/Mount Vernon Farmers Market on Sherwood Hall Lane has been catering to the produce needs of the southern area of Alexandria. Running only from April to December, this market packs a punch during its months of operation. Here you will find pastries and produce and kombucha and kimchi, a veteran-owned compost station, a live musician, and coffee from around the world.
Brandon Berryhill, founder, owner, and sole employee at The Traveling Shepherd Coffee brings global culture to his coffee. “I created this, and I’m the only person running it. It keeps the experience authentic,” says Brandon.
The Traveling Shepherd began attending farmers markets on May 1, 2020. He travels from Sherwood to Annandale to Reston and Warrenton, occasionally attending special events.
Brandon moved to Herndon from New Jersey in 2019. Before that, he traveled the world, exploring Roman Catholic Churches, which spurred his love for coffee. Brandon explains, “I have been to about 500 to 1,000 churches. In the mix, I saw the different cultures and styles of coffee in the different traditional churches. I said, You know what? This would be something fun to share with people and a fun way to share my travels with people.”
The East Coast, Brazil, Vietnam, Italy, Sicily, and France all appear on Brandon’s menu. Brewing from 11 cultural traditions and roasting from 30 different countries, Brandon’s goal is to try and share a little world experience of the way each country has coffee.
At Brandon’s booth, customers can enjoy Vietnamese iced coffee, which is drip coffee over ice, a Japanese-style tradition. They may also try Brandon’s favorite, Ethiopian coffee, which Brandon’s describes as a “nice, unfiltered, rich taste, with full flavor and nutrients.”
The Traveling Shepherd offers excellent coffee for a modest price. You can buy one cup of coffee for $3, one bag for $8, or you can mix and match two bags for $15.
Coffee is such a personal preference, and Brandon aims to make each experience with it something to savor, not just a 6 am black coffee-to-go. That is why his travels sparked his passion for the art of the beverage. His travels also play into the name of his company. The Traveling Shepherd was inspired by the book The Alchemist, in which the main character is a traveling shepherd. Considering this connection with The Alchemist and his journeys across the globe, Brandon is somewhat a traveling shepherd himself. He equates coffee with something precious. During the brewing process, he essentially turns the coffee bean into liquid gold. He simply thought to himself, “This would make a cool coffee name.” It certainly did, and it makes great coffee too. What’s more, it makes for a great experience.
National Farmers Market Week
The first week of August is National Farmers Market Week! But farmers Markets are celebrated in Alexandria year-round. Vendors and customers come from across the country to experience the fellowship and atmosphere that an Alexandria farmers market supplies. This week, we welcome you to visit all our markets with all our fabulous vendors. Please read on for a detailed list and directory of all Alexandria farmers markets.