Virtual Farmers Market

     Sometimes Saturday morning plans prevent or severely limit my time at the St. Stephens Farmers Market.  Today, for example, we are attending a 10:30 a.m. graduation.  If my morning goes according to plan, I will make a quick dash to St. Stephens to be there when the Farmers Market opens at 8, but if a roadblock arises, as so often happens at around here, I know that I can count on Fall Line Farms for my weekly fresh eggs and produce.

     Fall Line Farms was started by Molly Harris after her charming restaurant, the Edible Garden on River Road in Goochland, closed a few years ago.  Set in an old building just past Lower Tuckahoe, the restaurant was one of the first in the area to feature seasonal and local only foods.  When it closed, Molly decided to bring the products of her vendors to the local market.  So began Fall Line Farms’ on-line market in November, 2008.

     Molly describes it best on her website.

Fall Line Farms Co-op is a one stop shopping program for quality local food ordered from the comfort of your home. Now you can shop weekly for the sought after heritage breed beef, lamb, pork and poultry, artisan goats cheeses and an amazing listing of heirloom local produce only before available to local Chefs. There are no required minimum or maximum orders and you do not have to order each week, this is a totally flexible on-line shopping experience.

Concerned about the disappearance of family owned farms in Virginia, founder Molly Harris developed a system to bring naturally grown products to families and households efficiently, conveniently and cost effectively. In early 2009 Xgravity was hired to automate the weekly cycle system and bring LulusLocalFood.com to Virginia.

You will know the program is working when you see frequent changes in products and limited quantities. In other words, our food is seasonal and should not be available all the time. If you are buying bell peppers in December or eggplant in March then chances are you’re not buying Virginia, naturally grown, products. When products are available from Fall Line Farms they are fresh, in season, Virginia grown, natural and delicious.

    For my annual fee of $75, I receive an email on Friday afternoons telling me that the Buying Pages are open.  The deadline for ordering is Monday at 6:00 p.m., but if I know that I really want something, I will try to place my order early because many of the freshest offerings do sell out.  The Buying Pages often include the farmer/vendor’s descriptions of their products and what is currently happening at their farms, so I feel more connected to the growing season.  Though my mouth usually waters as I read through the long menu of available items, I try to make sensible choices because pick-up is not until Thursday afternoon.

     I always buy a dozen eggs, and every other week, I check the box for “Best of the Farm” from Manakintowne Specialty Growers.  This past week, they sent me bundles of sage, thyme, parsley, lavender , green onions and radishes, plus bags of greens, including little shots.  My mystery of the week is this purpley green:

Can anyone please tell my what it is?  It is a thicker leaf than the romaine that it resembles in this picture.  How do I prepare it for my family?   The Best of the Farm is a great way for my family to encounter a little something new every other week.

     This week’s Buying Pages include 51 vendors from traditional family farmers, to local pasta makers, to bakers, to herbalists, to dairy and bison producers.  Fall Line Farms also provides a place at the end of the pages to make a donation to its “Pounds of Plenty” program, which allows its customers to provide some of this fresh local food to the Virginia Food Bank and Meals on Wheels Community Kitchen.

     Fall Line Farms is a CSA without the commitment.  It also provides a lot more choices than a CSA, which is usually just sourced from one farm.  As part of bringing local food to local families, Fall Line Farms also sponsors community events throughout the area such as meet and greets with some of the growers and movie showings like Fresh.

     I will be sad to not be able to linger at the St. Stephens Farmers Market this morning, if I can even get there.  I will miss the 10 a.m. cooking demonstration by Brittany Mullins, a local foodie and author of the healthy living blog,  Eating Bird Food, as well as the folk music sounds of the Westover Hills duo, Richard and John.  No fish tacos from Boka Tako for me, either, this morning.  They sure were tasty last week.  Thankfully I’ve got the Fall Line Farms Buying Pages to whet my appetite and satisfy my hunger for the freshest produce around.

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