A recent trip to Archwood Green Barns Farmers market in The Plains, Virginia, brought a wonderful experience of summer produce and all that a farmers market can provide. I’m an avid horse rider (in enthusiasm, if not in skill), and each weekend I pass this market on the way out to my riding lesson. In fact, I worked here for a wonderful woman for a summer two years ago, who ran a farm goods store. The location is unique in that it’s on an old horse farm, which the barns (which are green, giving the name) are used as market building, with old horse stalls providing perfect stalls for local producers of everything, from hand made goods, flowers, pickles, baked goods, specialty eggs to fruit and veg.
I needed to buy some vegetables and fruits for our Summer Youth Program at ECO City Farms, so I started at Jose’s vegetable stand from his farm in Montose, Virginia. I got a nice selection of those cool and unusual vegetables foodies like: white green peppers and purple potatoes. But I’m not fooled by fancy and also loved their onions cucumbers and squash, which came in patty pan, Bonita and other great colors and shapes.
Next it was on to Chester Hess’ fruit stand, where he always has beautiful peaches and berries this time of year. I pulled beautiful early white peaches and a few yellow ones. They also had sour cherries, Metheny plums, blueberries, strawberries and sweet cherries. I got sweet cherries and plums for the Summer Youth kids and sour cherries for my next pie. (If you find them, sour cherries make the best pie you’ve ever tasted, but they are not around for long.) Mr. Hess is an anchor at this market – he’s here with produce as soon as the market opens in May, (sometimes earlier), and stays until October, (sometimes later) when apples, pears and winter squash are abundant. I’ve also bought seconds from him in peaches, which I used for canning and freezing.
I roamed the stalls of the main barn, discovering a pickle vendor that also sells in DC. Their ‘half-sour’ pickles are so garlicy and tasty, they are worth $6 for the small container.
Next I went into one of the smaller barns (formerly the stallion barn) to visit Martins Meat. Martins Angus Beef is grass fed operation which finishes on grain. Their farm is located in The Plains and provides meats to high end DC restaurants, such as Buck’s Fishing and Camping, Marcel’s and Komi. But they have a foot firmly in the local market, and are present at various farmers markets and local foodsellers. I’ve realized that prices bought directly from meat producers equal or are lower than that of the grocery store. And, though I can’t afford steaks, I always seek out ground beef when out in farm country. Usually around $5 a pound, the taste is so much better, and the price sometimes lower than at my local Giant. This time it’s a $5 package of ground beef for my freezer.
Finally, I’m more than a tad peckish, so I head over to Magic Mike’s BBQ, where the smell brings you along even if you aren’t hungry. It’s a pulled pork BBQ sandwich for me, along with a sweet tea. I sit by my car in the shade and eat, gazing out across the lush green fields. My legs ache from the ride an hour ago and I’m covered in sweat and horse dirt. I’m in heaven.
Archwood Green Barns Farmers Market is located just off I-66 at exit 31, on Route 245/Old Tavern Road.