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(post, West End Farmers' Market)
At dawn on Sunday May 3, the West End Farmers Market vendors will set up their tents and tables in the south parking lot of Ben Brenman Park for the first day of the 2009 summer season. Two divisions of the Alexandria Library System 'The Ready, Set, Grow' program and the 'All Alexandria Reads' program will be participating in celebrating the opening. The library will bring a storyteller to entertain the children, while the grown-ups indulge in the pleasures of the palate. An acoustic musician will be playing at the other end of the market. In between will be a scrumptious array of local food. All winter my friends and I have been waiting for spring, when the market would re-open and our favorite farmers would set out fresh-picked local vegetables and fruits. We have been longing to select from colorful mounds of deep red radishes, beets and rhubarb, crisp-green Bok Choy, Shallots, pearlescent Chinese Cabbages, early lettuces, and dark-green collard greens and spinach. This year we will be able to buy micro-greens from a new vendor, Heather Caudle of Wisteria Gardens. Alma Diaz of Westmoreland Berry Farms and Barry Argento of Papa’s Orchard to thrill us with eye-popping rows of delicious and colorful strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and winter apples and pears. Julie, the other market manager and I will be handing out recipes so you can try new ways to prepare spring vegetables and fruits. At Tommy Tompkins tent, we will be able to purchase a variety of hand-made cheeses, including an exquisite cave cheese, sinfully good goat’s cheese, and an excellent sharp cheddar. He also offers yogurt, and delicious handmade jams and jellies, pickles and relishes. Next to Tommy is another new vendor, Vicki Fedor, owner of North Gate Vineyard, who will be offering the perfect complement to Tommy’s cheese - Virginia-made wine. West End residents will be able to round out their Sunday picnic lunch of cheese, fruit, veggies and wine with freshly-baked breads. Choose from multiple vendors offering a variety of crunchy baguettes, soft rolls, sweet pastries, muffins and buttery scones. Customers who cannot resist the tempting smell of fresh scones and muffins, can enjoy their treat on the surrounding picnic benches and linger over gourmet coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice from the market. Free-range, grass fed beef and chickens, as well as free-range eggs are also offered by market vendors. One of our new vendors will be offering freshly roasted fair-trade coffee and another local honey from their own hives. Don’t just buy yourself a good meal; make sure your dog has a treat as well. Last year Lisa’s handmade dog treats were a market bestseller. If you need a little gourmet mustard, vinaigrettes or sauces to complete your meal, make sure you stop by Gourmet on the Go. To complete a perfect spring day, you can take home large bouquets of cut flowers from Billie the Flower Guy. Julie Bryant the other market manager and I, as well as the city of Alexandria would like to invite each of you to come celebrate good food, community and fine Sunday mornings. By purchasing locally grown produce and food, you can eat well, buy green, have a great time while supporting small farmers and our regional economy. What better way to spend a Sunday morning! The West End Farmers Market, located in the south parking lot of Ben Brenman Park, next to the Cameron Station community, is open every Sunday from 9AM to 1PM. If you are riding by on the bike path, park your bike with the market manager and take your time shopping. If you are driving, there is plenty of parking in the adjacent parking lots and on the street. See you soon!