Tastes of the Season: Crozet Localvores Have Many Options

Lavender Wand workshop at the Crozet Farmers Market on June 27
Lavender Wand workshop at the Crozet Farmers Market on June 27

by Clover Carroll

Fresh-picked lettuce, cherries, Swiss chard, asparagus, rhubarb, and spinach. Honey from bees that may have nectared in your flowers. Eggs laid yesterday. Trout caught in a nearby stream within the past few days. Fresh lavender bouquets and beautiful baskets made of honeysuckle vine. Homemade poppy seed bread, granola bursting with flavor, raspberry jam, and sweet pickles. Is your mouth watering yet? These are the treasures that await me every Saturday morning, without driving more than a mile or two from my home! Provided I get up and out before all the good stuff’s sold out.

The Local Food Movement is alive and well in Crozet. Popularized by such books as The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, as well as recently released movies such as Food Inc. and Fresh, the commitment to seek out and buy food harvested within 100 miles of home—to use the “dollar vote” I learned about in high school economics to help our local economy while improving our own health and gastronomic pleasure—seems to be all the rage. Why should you jump on the bandwagon? Just for starters, buying local:

  • Supports endangered small farmers and preserves farmland from development.
  • Supports the local economy by providing jobs.
  • Protects the environment by reducing carbon emissions during long-distance transport and reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides common in industrial farming.
  • Tastes better! If you’ve ever grown your own garden or tasted your friend’s home-grown tomatoes, you know there is no comparison.
  • Improves your health and that of your family. Not only is freshness directly related to nutritional value, but local foods are usually grown organically and minimally sprayed.
  • Promotes the humane treatment of animals—i.e., they are raised cage-free, antibiotic-free, etc.
  • Reconnects us to the earth, the seasons, and our local history (in our case, orchards).
  • Usually costs less because of reduced transportation and storage costs. (This may not be true for meat, raised humanely and organically, or goods produced at home without mechanization.)

Though there are many ways for Crozetians to benefit from this trend, two of the most convenient are the Crozet Farmers’ Market and Horse and Buggy Produce Natural Food Cooperative.

The Crozet Farmers’ Market

The Crozet Farmers’ Market, located in downtown Crozet beside the Crozet United Methodist Church, is open from from 8 to 12 every Saturday morning May through October.

The Crozet Farmers’ Market had its genesis in the late 1990s, with the selling of locally grown produce by Wendy Schultz as an outgrowth of the Crozet Natural Foods food cooperative. This occurred first in the parking lot in front of what is now Three-Notch’d Grill, and later at the dock behind Crozet Fabulous Foods, which Heather Penny bought in 2001, after the cooperative closed.

In 2000, a group of dedicated Crozet residents, including Cabell Coward, Kathleen Jump, Tom Cichon, and Tricia Costello of Innisfree decided to start a full-blown Farmers’ Market to provide a venue for local farmers, backyard gardeners, local artisans, and children to sell their overflow produce and artistic creations. The Crozet Farmers’ Market was the first in Albemarle County, outside of the cities of Charlottesville and Scottsville.

“Without the generosity of the Crozet United Methodist Church,” reports Jump, who served as a volunteer organizer until this year, “and their willingness to host the market in the ideal space of their gravel parking lot, the market would never have become a reality.” Early vendors included Innisfree Community Garden and Mark and Bruce Tammen. All products sold at the market must be produced by the vendors themselves, who pay 5 percent of their take if they earn more than $50 in total sales.

Over time, the vendors have taken over the running of the market, with Cynthia Armstrong as treasurer and the Beachy family—Cheryl, Melissa, and Jessica, who sell Cheryl’s Homemade jams, baked goods, and hand-made baskets from the Free Union area—collecting in her absence. Cynthia and her children Katie and Annie, along with her grandchildren, sell heirloom plants, produce, and homemade baked goods at the market. The funds collected are used for the porta-potty, donations to the church, homemade signs painted by Meg West, and advertising.

“We love how low-key this market is,” commented vendor Kevin McKenna on a recent Saturday, between sales of potatoes, spinach, herbs, and bulk wool from his Highland Sheep Farm in Whitehall. “We don’t have to make the unrealistic commitment to be here every Saturday, like at some markets. And the 5 percent if you make over $50 fee is reasonable, so we can do better than just break even,” he said. “Hey, have you ever tried Poor Man’s Shrimp?” he continued, holding out a platter of raw turnip strips dipped in cocktail sauce. Kevin also takes orders for fresh lamb meat.

Next door to Kevin, Dabney Farmer and her mom BT were selling baked goods, strawberries, lemonade, and lavender at the “Farmer’s Farmers Market” stand. I can testify that Dabney’s orange blossom mini-muffins are out of this world!

Next I wandered over to Greg & Grace’s Bagels Extraordinaire for a homemade onion and garlic bagel with cream cheese. College students (and former WAHS graduates) Greg Leichner, Grace Manno, and Charlie Hufnagel had sold 120 bagels in a little over three hours! “We originally started this because we couldn’t find summer jobs,” Grace confided. “But it’s really taken off!” New bagel flavors are in the works.

Sherry and Al Minutolo of Sheral Flower Farm near Henley’s Orchard were selling cut flower bouquets, hanging baskets, potted herbs, and tomato plants, while Norma Kramer from Earlysville offered crafts, jewelry, handbags, and other whimsies.

The Alvizo family, Pedro Sr. and Jr., anchor the market with a vast array of produce—tomatoes, beans, canteloupe, and cukes—from their family farm in Westmoreland County, while Gayle Gutierrez sells eyeglass chains and very classy jewelry made from semi-precious stones.

Be sure not to miss Pam Roland’s inspiring, dancing Joybelz greeting cards, printed from hand-painted watercolors, and the Lavender Meadows stand where Kathy Rash and Debbie Watson sell guinea hen eggs and homespun felt in addition to lavender bouquets.

Every second and fourth Saturday, the Piedmont Master Gardeners set up a gardening/farming “help desk” stand at the market, where they provide advice to gardeners as well as hosting a children’s craft activity. I hope you were lucky enough to stop by on June 27 to make a lavender wand. This magical event is held annually, shortly before July 4 when lavender is in full bloom. Kathleen Jump provides the lavender for the Master Garderners—including Allison Montgomery, Margaret Haupt, Kate Hegarty, and Jacki Vawter—to teach children (and anyone who is young at heart) how to weave the long, supple lavender stalks with narrow ribbon into wands, tucking the purple blossoms inside to form a sturdy, fragrant tip.

Another annual event coming up in October is the Apple Cider Festival, when apples provided by Henley’s Orchards will be pressed to make fresh cider—yum!

Besides supporting local farmers and craftspeople economically, the Farmers’ Market “celebrates the seasons, and reminds us of what it means to living in an orchard community, to reconnect with the harvests that have been fundamental to life here for over 100 years,” Jump points out. “As we are losing the look of old Crozet, it is more important than ever to come together as a community to continue these traditions and to connect the farmer, the food, and the consumer.”

Vendors are welcome to join the Crozet Farmers’ Market on any given Saturday, and creative volunteers are always needed to make posters and paint signs. To register or for further information, contact Cynthia Armstrong at 823-4727.

Horse and Buggy Produce Natural Foods Cooperative delivers to the parking lot behind the clock tower in Old Trail every Saturday morning from 8:30 to 10 a.m. An outgrowth of Community-Supported Agriculture cooperatives, or CSAs—in which consumers buy “shares” in a farm (or group of farms), thus financing the farmer’s investments up front and reaping the harvest throughout the growing season—Horse & Buggy gathers a variety of produce, dairy, meat, baked goods, and honey from local farms within 100 miles of Charlottesville, many of them Mennonite family farms in the Shenandoah Valley. In addition to subscriber shares, which are still on sale, there is an a la carte table for cash and carry customers. Horse & Buggy Produce will be discussed more fully in next month’s issue of the Crozet Gazette.

To find out more about the Local Food Movement, CSAs, farmers’ markets, and sources for locally-grown food, visit these websites:

Buy Fresh Buy Local Guide
Piedmont Environmental Council

The Local Food Hub

Local Harvest (Crozet Farmers’ Market)

Horse and Buggy Produce Food Cooperative

Chiles Peach Orchard

The 3/50 Project

Food, Inc. movie info & trailer

Fresh movie info & trailer