“Artisanal” is the buzzword along the stalls at Falls Church City’s weekly farmers market.
The term applies to products crafted by traditional processes. Seemingly, every product at the market touts itself as “artisanal” – cheese, wine and the like; other vendors substitute familiar phrases: “homemade” or “traditional.”
Each stall houses a business of proud farmers and artisans; many are families or independent enterprises.
All of them showcase their trades: from the agricultural to wine, coffee and confectionaries. Their skills are purportedly rare enough that one is hard-pressed to find equals in quality.
Varieties of zucchini and peppers adjoin wares of chocolate and honey, gelato, crab cakes and fresh buffalo meat. Dragonfly Farms’ local wines sit bathed in ice, hidden from the oppressive summer sun by the stall’s canopy. Toward one end of the market, the scent of fragrant rosemary mingles with Arabian jasmine in midmorning’s heavy heat, while worldly folk music recounts tales from near and afar.
Perhaps one savors the market’s familial air above all.
Elzena Ross and her great-nephew Martez exemplify that family nature, representing Hondo Coffee Company, family-owned and run out of Manassas.
The Rosses occupy a little tent – adequate relief from Virginia’s morning sun and humid air – but the robust flavors within are anything but little.
As Hondo Coffee’s ambassador, Ross concedes: “The coffee speaks for itself.” The smooth taste of the organic Honduran coffee allows the drinker to enjoy the coffee black. Local daily roasting at the Manassas headquarters ensures that freshness. For the customer who likes coffee “regular,” Ross also has cream and sugar on the side.
Hondo Coffee, however, is not your regular coffee company. The company began in 2004 with the foresight of Arondo Holmes. Holmes oversaw the transformation of a ramshackle Honduran farm into today’s thriving humanitarian and nature-friendly business. “The owner [Holmes] takes pride, being the coffee is hand-picked,” Ross said.
She added: “He puts back into the community [Honduras], building schools, getting the hospital running.” Holmes cooperates with the charity organization Project Honduras.
Of course, Hondo Coffee takes care of its Falls Church clientele as well. Hooked on Hondo’s perfect roasts, local newcomer Keith has frequented Falls Church’s market for several months now. “This one was the one I wanted to come to, for the coffee,” Keith said.
Keith described the coffee as almost tea-like: “It’s easy to make the mistake to call it tea. It’s mild.”
Ross concurred: “More tea people say, ‘I’ll take a bag.’ We can connect everybody’s taste.”
This is Hondo Coffee’s first season in Falls Church, but the operation spans markets across Northern Virginia and Maryland. “They’ll [Customers] come all the way from D.C. and buy several bags each month,” Ross said.
For those who can’t make Saturday’s weekly event between 8 a.m. and noon, Ross reassures them: “We’re in the final stages of making a deal with Whole Food’s Market.” The deal will be finalized later this year, she said.
Down the market way, Deb Matthews is the owner and baker of Chase Your Tail Bakery in Leesburg, Va. Matthews has sold “pet treats freshly baked with human-grade ingredients” for four years. Canine cuisine, however, was not her initial calling.
Unemployed in the wake of her telecom company’s break-up in 2001, Matthews scoured the Internet for employment. She came across her present venture on eBay, buying the Michigan-based company for the sum of $8,000. Matthews helped to transport the bakery’s wares halfway across the nation.
Matthews has made the one-hour journey to Falls Church every week this year. Like the Rosses and Hondo Coffee, Matthews is a greenhorn to this farmers market. So far, she has enjoyed the year. “I’m ecstatic. Business has been wonderful,” said Matthews.
Successful, too, are the pet treats available fresh from Chase Your Tail’s ovens. Owners can reward pets with whole-wheat flour snacks and a plethora of novel tastes for the canine (or feline) taste buds.
Each snack holds a unique flavor and Matthews’ unflagging commitment to her products. Pumpkin Nibbles, Apple Bites and Peanut Butter Carob Chip Blossoms hint at three of the 12 delights for sale last Saturday.
Despite rising gas costs, Matthews returns each week. “As a business owner, gas prices factor in,” she said. Other costs affect the bakery operation as well. “The price of flour has had a direct influence,” Matthews said, forcing her to raise prices.
Even so, healthy pet treats remain affordable. A grab bag of 12 assorted goodies costs $5.
Matthews shared her thoughts on the farmers market, too. “If you really wanted to be green, you could get all your groceries here,” she said.
Within walking distance of downtown Falls Church, the market provides locals with quick access to fresh products and exotic delights, with none of the carbon emissions from costly transportation of goods.
For environmentalists, the health-conscious and the everyday needs of Falls Church locals, the farmers market brings the luxury of green living literally next door.