Arlington Farmers Market
Courthouse and 14th St.
Submitted by: Kit Johnston
The tents and a colorful bounty of produce make this market the only charming thing good left in a high-rise, asphalt-ridden neighborhood.
Arlington tore down its old courthouse several years ago and replaced it with high-rise office buildings, a high-rise jail, and a massive one-level asphalt surface parking lot serving as the only open space. The Arlington Farmers Market - seasonal Saturday morning market featuring more than 20 producers from Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, next to the county's main governmental complex - is the only note of charm left.
Located on a street blocked off for the market, just off the parking lot, the 25-year-old market continues to remind Arlingtonians of what's really important: farm-fresh produce, caring for oneself and one's family, support of small farmers, support of open land devoted to either conservation or agriculture within the urban footprint, etc. The tents staffed by hard-working agriculturists and spilling over with colorful bounty present a stark contrast to the high-rise government and commercial office buildings that surround it.
The market is popular. Traffic can get as high as 2,300 customers on a Saturday morning in peak season. It is underpromoted, but Arlingtonians either manage to stumble onto it anyway or learn about it through word of mouth. To help the market establish itself even more, a logo has been designed, and banners will fly above beginning in summer 2002. The VA Cooperative Extension and volunteer citizens initiated a "guest chef" series, in which local chefs will walk the market for free in summer, selecting produce and discussing what they want to do with it back in their kitchens. Later, classes will be held in their kitchens. It is a way to support non-chain local business.
What Makes Arlington Farmers Market a Great Place?
People can walk there, take the subway (a stop is nearby), or drive. Most drive, even though Arlington is a small county. Many buy so many groceries at the market that a car is almost a necessity (I do this, and witness it, too).
Very clean. Lots of families. Very safe. It is a haven from the adjacent parking lot - an oasis, really.
Regular use from April through December. Users are definitely varied in age and gender.
Neighbors and friends often bump into each other at the market and take time out to gossip, catch up, in the fresh air amid the beautiful produce items. I've been going to the market for 22 years, and see that we now have a number of ethnicities come that are reflective of the community. I'm often asked "what can I do with this?" by someone from another culture. In Arlington public schools, we have 80 nationalities and over 100 languages.
Tom Tyler, Extension Agent, VA Cooperative Extension Service