Small farmers’ markets in the Shenandoah Valley have, over time, grown from simple roadside stands into multi-faceted operations complete with seminars, festivals, concerts, tours and other events. Of course their “bread and butter” remains fresh, succulent locally-grown produce, meats, cheeses, jellies, and baked goods. But today, a trip to a Valley farmer’s market can be an extensive and gratifying shopping experience. Below we highlight a few and urge you to visit them.
Marker-Miller Orchards Farm Market and Bakery opens June 1st. Located minutes off I-81 in Winchester, this operation has greatly expanded the traditional role of the “farmer’s market.” While they offer a huge array of home-grown peaches, apples, plums, plus a few dozen vegetables and fresh baked goods, they also emphasis family fun opportunities. Festivals, school tours, birthday parties, wagon rides, a playground, picnic areas and “pick your own” opportunities keep the family fully engaged. Some years ago, they were one of four farm markets in the country to be written up in Family Circle magazine.
Saturdays from 10-2 (May through September), the Old Town Farmers Market in Winchester offers fruits, vegetables, artisan breads, cookies, cheese, grass fed beef, gluten free bread, cured meats, jam, eggs, honey and many other items. All are grown or produced within a 60-mile radius of Winchester.
Open Saturdays from May through September, the Luray/Page Farmers Market features locally grown seasonal produce, fresh meats, baked goods, and plants. Breakfast and lunch sandwiches prepared on-site. Wares by local artists and traditional craftsmen are on display as well. Combine this with a visit to Luray Caverns, just a stone’s throw away from the market. Luray is also hosting its annual Festival of Spring on May 5th.
Willow Grove Farm Market in Luray is just down the street from the county’s Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, so be sure to stop at both. (Explore the Chamber’s brand new website here.) Willow Grove raises a long list of vegetables on-site, and they have grass-fed beef, chicken, pork, lamb, eggs, milk, ice cream and more. Fish, oysters and other seafood is brought in by season. Several restaurants in Luray get the freshest possible produce and other foods from Willow Grove.
The South Street Barn Market in historic downtown Woodstock is open every Saturday, all year round. Vendors include farmers with hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, vegetables, and fruits. You’ll also find herbs, honey, eggs, sweets, plants, fibers, pottery, soaps, textiles, and a great deal more. Leashed dogs are ok to bring.
Located in Timberville, a bit north of Harrisonburg, Showalter’s Orchard & Greenhouse is one of the few places you can find 30 or more different kinds of apples. They make their own cider on-site, raise many herbs and vegetables such as lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, etc., and share their love of farming through a variety of gardening classes and workshops. Events include Greenhouse Tours, Charity Fundraisers, Festivals, and Old Hill Cider Tastings. They are family owned and operated since 1965. Lush fields and classic Shenandoah Valley views will have you thinking about quitting your city job and getting back to the land. Planning a wedding? Showalter’s lush fields and classic Shenandoah Valley views make it a stunning choice for a ceremony and reception.
Open Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8:00 to 1:00 (April – Thanksgiving) the Harrisonburg Farmers Market is one of the larger markets in the Valley, boasting nearly 45 vendors. Diverse offerings include a massive variety of fruit and vegetables, plus beef, pork, lamb, chicken, as well as cakes, cookies, breads, jellies, jams, syrups, and local wine. Coffees, tea, and sauces have a strong presence and locally made arts and crafts, jewelry, plants and floral bouquets can be found as well. The market as we know it today got started in 1979, but its roots can be traced back to the 1950s.
Just south of Harrisonburg you will discover the Dayton Market (formerly known as the Dayton Farmers Market) a “community of shops” open now from Thursday to Saturday. About 20 specialty shops offer a staggering selection of local cheeses, meats, baked goods, plus coffees, chocolates and other sweets, as well as all manner of hand crafts and artwork, including paintings by P. Buckley Moss. Gifts, jewelry and toys make shopping for birthdays and other occasions easy. It’s all housed indoors so weather will not deter a visit.
Also south of Harrisonburg is the Shenandoah Heritage Market. More of a “country market” than a farmer’s market, they display lots of food items like local produce and homemade fudge but venture into Amish furniture, quilts, Civil War memorabilia, antiques, western apparel and tack, and handcrafted toys and gifts. Water gardens, park benches and a full service café make for a pleasant outing as you browse about 20 vendors.
The Staunton Farmer’s Market operates the first Saturday in April until the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving. It’s located at the Wharf Parking Lot on Johnson Street in historic downtown Staunton. It is a “producer-only” market, meaning the vendor selling a product has been involved with the growing or production of it. And, it must be done within 75 miles of Staunton, ensuring customers get the freshest, local products possible. Typically about 20 vendors offer everything grown in the Valley—fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese, honey, sausage, beef, jam, jellies, pickles, relish, plus baked goods, plants and flower arrangements. Live musical entertainment occurs twice a month, too.
Not exactly a market but….
Wisteria Farm and Vineyard — Located a few miles south of Luray, Wisteria produces wonderful Virginia wines and hosts a tasting room, deck with pastoral views, and live music weekly in season. They harvest and process all wine from the grapes they grow, and the working farm supports a small flock of natural-colored Romney sheep as well as free-roaming chickens. Take a picnic lunch to accompany one of their fine wines.
White Oak Lavender Farm— Did you know more than 100 products can be made from lavender? Soaps, lotions, creams, aromatherapy products and many others can be had at White Oak Lavender farm, about eight miles southeast of Harrisonburg. Children especially will love the rabbits, goats, miniature horses, sheep and other livestock roaming the petting area. Lots of live music events, classes of different types, farm tours, weddings, wine celebrations and other activities make return visits the norm here. Hours April- Dec: Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. -6:00 p.m. Sunday 1:00-6:00 p.m.
Photo courtesy Virginia Tourism Corporation/Bill Crabtree, Jr.