Lately, familiar vendors at the FreshFarm Sunday farmers market in Dupont Circle have been doing double duty. Why? Because there’s a new market in town (well, actually it’s in Fairfax) and not only does it run at the same times as the downtown market (Sundays between 9 AM and 1 PM), it draws many of the same farmers. Some run back and forth, while others have hired extra help.
Located in the parking lot of the Whole Foods Fair Lakes shopping center, the new market is bringing to the ‘burbs lots of familiar Dupont faces: Toigo Orchards, Chris' Marketplace, Blue Ridge Dairy, Gardner's Gourmet, Smith Meadows Farm, Endless Summer Harvest and Wollam Gardens.
The major difference between the markets? The Fair Lakes Whole Foods venture isn’t affiliated with the FreshFarm name (The division of American Farmland Trust has spawned popular markets in Dupont Circle, Penn Quarter, Foggy Bottom, and Silver Spring). Instead, it’s run by Whole Foods, and represents the organic-friendly grocery chain’s push to get consumers to think even more locally.
When the Whole Foods people sought advice on the farmers market idea from Fair Lakes store team leader Pat Busby, he knew just the person to call: His old classmate Mark Toigo (a recent Kitchen Favorites personality), who sells produce from his orchard to local chefs and Washingtonians at area farmers markets. Busby, Toigo, and Toigo’s business partner Vas Trnka (the fun-loving Czech farmer) joined forces and now have a handful of farmers they know from various DC markets on board.
While FreshFarm has a highly-respected reputation in Washington, some farmers who sell at both Dupont and Fair Lakes admit that bypassing the extra FreshFarm payments–the organization collects six percent of gross sales from each vendor–is a seductive perk. And though the progressive-minded FreshFarm has a strong record of encouraging DC’s community support and cultural enrichment, the Fair Lakes Whole Foods market offers farmers fewer logistical and bureaucratic complications.
So will Whole Foods shoppers dodge the cash registers inside for the wicker baskets of strawberries and bunches of arugula outdoors? We’ll see. But they’ve got some competition too. Every Saturday, the well-established Fairfax City market runs in the same neighborhood.
Fair Lakes Whole Foods Market, 4501 Market Commons Dr. Fairfax; 703-222-2058.