On the Way In and Out
Berries and cherries are here in profusion — some late strawberries, raspberries, black raspberries and blueberries too. Also this week, more small tomato varieties and some lovely summer squash and recipes to match!
Free Party and Jazz Concert This Week
Smart Markets is pleased to present a farewell performance by the Rodney Richardson Trio joined by a special guest, jazz vocalist Lena Seikaly. (Follow those links to hear samples of their music.) Rodney’s jazz guitar has been a fixture at our markets, but he’s moving to Chicago, and we’ll be sad to see him go.
Rodney is known as the D.C. jazz scene’s “first-call guitarist,” according to the Washington City Paper, and Lena is the city’s “most splendid young vocalist.” The City Paper also called Rodney and Lena’s concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C., last week “perfection.” Now you can enjoy their music for free. Rodney and Lena will perform from 5–7 p.m., joined by bassist Gavin Fallow and drummer Dave McDonald.
Come join us to say goodbye to the leader of our own in-house jazz trio for the last two years and enjoy the bounty of the market as cooked up by our vendors and Annie Sidley, our demo diva. Shelby will have Paint Your Own Cupcake kits with frosting and add-ons for the kids to make on their own. Several vendors will offer miniature versions of their products for $1-$2 each, and Fabbioli Cellars and Loudoun Valley Vineyards will sell wine by the glass in the party tent. Smart Markets and Annie Sidley will provide free hors d’oeuvres. And Fun Country Kettle Corn will have free mini-bags of popcorn for the kids who know the score.
From the Market Master
Just when we need it most — as our local farmers are bringing their bounty to farmers’ markets throughout the Northern Virginia area, we are reminded once again why it is worth that extra dollar per pound to buy local. Last month Taylor Farms Retail recalled packaged, organic spinach due to concerns about salmonella contamination. This reminded me of the answer I provided to a question just last week about organic produce at our markets. Even before the details of this recall were released, this is what I had to say:
There are very few small certified organic farmers in Virginia or any other state, for that matter, since the federal government took over certification about 15 years ago and made it nearly impossible financially for a small farm to become certified. We do have some organic farmers at our markets, but most are in western Virginia counties and have not started picking much produce yet.
We do have several sustainable farmers who farm organically but are not permitted to use the term “organic.” At Reston, we have Heritage Farm and Kitchen and Fossil Rock Farm. At Lorton we have Blenheim Organic Gardens. At Centreville and Bristow we have Holly Brook Farm. At Oakton we have Heritage Farm and Kitchen and another farm in Prince William County coming soon. Only at Springfield do we not have a sustainable or organic farm.
You rarely see an organic fruit grower in this area, as they need to spray for fungal diseases in this humid climate — but most only spray early in the season and not throughout the season as the big growers do.
Even our farmers from the Northern Neck of Virginia use very little fertilizer, fungicides, or insecticides because they are too expensive.
The great thing about shopping at farmers’ markets is the opportunity to ask each farmer exactly how they grow their crops, and it will vary across crops so ask about specific items if you want to know. Personally I feel much more comfortable buying anything local than buying certified organic from China or Mexico — how can we believe their claims if we are not allowed to inspect the farms? And you also don’t have to worry about E. coli or salmonella in your salad greens, tomatoes, or peppers from a local farm.
Many of you have read this before in this space, but it does bear repeating when we see how little that “organic” label means. Researching the spinach recall, I found a story about another recall of salad mixes containing listeria just a few weeks ago. The good news is that they have recalled the products. With at least a five-day delay, that spinach is not even going to be in your refrigerator mainly because — as I have also mentioned before — store-bought produce won’t last much longer than that.
Here is my point in a pea pod: If you want to know what you are eating, if you want to be able to trust your fresh-food sources, and if you want to be able to learn everything you can about how that food was raised or grown, then your local farmer has the best buys around. This is preventive medicine at the most basic level; not only will local food contribute to your good health, it will not contribute to your ill health.
So pay us a visit this week, meet those farmers, and thank them for working so hard to keep you healthy. You can’t do that in the grocery store.