Mr. Cluck Cluck will be perched among the produce, prepared foods and other products when Long Family Markets reopens Sunday at the 610 Commuter Lot in Stafford County.
Regulars know to be on the lookout for the mask-wearing fabric fowl, who’ll be hidden in a different spot at the market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Sunday through Nov. 21.
“If they find him, they stop by our information tent and let us know where they saw him,” said Robin Lynn Long, market co-owner, chief strategist and chaos coordinator. “Correct answers get a dollar to shop with in the market.”
She came up with the idea for Mr. Cluck Cluck four years ago as a fun way to keep kids occupied as their parents shop. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but proved so popular that she made him a permanent fixture.
“This is the first year he’s had an official name,” Long said. “We had a contest last year and Mr. Cluck Cluck won.”
The name isn’t the only new thing this year at Long Family Markets. There will also be 10 vendors there for the first time, plus two that will return after a yearlong absence due to the pandemic. That brings the total number of sellers at the market to 68.
“I’m so happy with the growth despite everything that’s been going on,” Long said. “It’s wonderful.”
The newcomers are: Glow Holistic (CBD products), Coral’s Pure Beeswax Candles & Keepsakes, Grassy Knoll Farm (produce, plants, poultry and eggs), Iced Tea & Books (pet beds and toys), Kamela Skincare (oils, lotions and scrubs), Miranda’s Minerals (crystals, herbs, incense), Branches & Vines (plant-based candles), Papa G’s Foods (pepper sauce and kittely), The Salty Bakers (herb-infused salts and baked goods) and The Cider Lab (craft cider).
Long Family Markets will feature a different theme or celebration each Sunday. It also periodically hosts special events, such as the concert by students from Mariah’s Music & Arts on May 23. Long said she is partnering with the NAACP on a June event, but nothing has been finalized.
Long Family Markets is one of eight farmers market locations in Fredericksburg and the surrounding counties of Caroline, King George, Stafford and Spotsylvania, according to the Virginia Farmers Markets Association. Most open this month, although one started at the end of March, and several have a handful of vendors that operate most of the year.
Caroline County is home to a couple of farmers markets: the Bowling Green Community Farmers Market and the Route 639 Farmers Market in Ladysmith.
Bowling Green’s market opened March 27 in front of the Atlantic Bank Union Bank Building at North Main Street. Its eight vendors will be selling everything from plants and produce to baked goods and crafts from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday through Oct. 18.
For those who prefer shopping during a weekday evening, the Route 639 Farmers Market will operate from 4–7 p.m. every Thursday starting May 6 and running through Sept. 23. It’s held in the front parking lot of C.T. Smith High School, formerly known as CDLC and LES, in Ladysmith. Vendors will sell fruits, vegetables, eggs, breads, baked goods, herbs, spices, plants and homemade goods. There will also be food trucks and activities for children.
The Spotsylvania Farmers Market will open Saturday in the VDOT Commuter Lot at the intersection of State Route 3 and Gordon Road. It will operate from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays through Dec. 18
“Depending on the weather, we’ll open with about half the vendors,” Beth Austin, the market manager, wrote in an email. “By May, when everyone has arrived, we expect more than 40 vendors. Many of these are the same great vendors with beautiful products that customers have come to know and love (produce, meats, eggs, honey, breads and baked goods, salsa, pickles, jams, dog treats, BBQ, coffee, lemonade, kettle corn and much more).”
She said the market will also feature vegetable, herb and bedding plants, as well as baskets of flowering plants.
Shoppers who want to grab breakfast while they’re at the market will have choices that include grilled vegan breakfast sandwiches from a new vendor, who also will sell vegan sauces and spreads. Meat lovers can order the new sausage and cheese breakfast sandwiches that a regular vendor who sells barbecue is adding to his menu.
A new vendor specializes in gourmet fresh, dried mushrooms and mushroom kits. Another new addition sells oysters at the market on a bi-weekly basis. Two other vendors will return after an absence: a popular cookie seller and an herbalist who provides herbal products, teas and plants.
The Spotsylvania Farmers Market also has a location in front of Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center that will operate from 2–6 p.m. Wednesdays beginning May 5. It will run through Sept. 8.
“We have a great selection of vendors this year,” Austin said. “Customers will find beautiful produce, an assortment of meats and eggs, microgreens, coffee, kettle corn, cookies and pies. This is a great mid-week market that we hope to grow this season and is perfect for customers that are looking for freshly grown or produced local foods, but like to shop at a less crowded venue.”
She is holding off on planning special events other than Farmers Market Week, which is the first full week in August, until she sees what is happening regarding COVID-19.
“We are committed to the safety of customers and vendors. We are strictly observing health safety protocols at both locations that include mandatory face masks for all vendors, market staff and customers,” Austin said.
Each market location will have a hand-washing station and sanitizer available, and surfaces will be sanitized regularly. Vendor booths will remain spaced apart and customers will not be able to shop within them. They will, however, be able to choose their own products from the items on display. Vendors will be able to help with anything that is not within reach, she said.
“Our hope is that as the season progresses, we will be able to provide additional entertainment as we have in the past,” said Austin.
The Fredericksburg Farmers Market will open April 17 at Hurkamp Park at Prince Edward and George Streets. It will run from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday through October. About 30 vendors will be offering local produce, honey, mushrooms, fresh breads, sustainably raised meat, eggs, seafood, coffee, and other specialty items.
New this season will be The Salty Bakers, which will also be at Long Family Market; Bodhi Juicery (organic cold-pressed juices); Flap’s Foods (vegan spreads and sauces); Wild Fields Farm (pasture–grazed, grass-fed beef and free-range pork); Authentic Chicha (a traditional Peruvian beverage); LG’s Elixirs (cold-pressed, organic juices); and Magpie Company (Australian meat pies).
In addition, there will be four new small vendors who will have pop-ups at the market on the second and fourth Saturday of each month to introduce themselves to the community. They are Bare Root Garden (plants and seedlings, Green Means Grow (microgreens), Wild Field Farm (grass-feed beef and free-range pork) and Baroness Whitmoyer (German baked goods.).
“It’s just to kind of help them get introduced to the community,” said Paula Meredith, market manager. “It will be kind of a bonus weekend.”
The market will also host up to 40 artists and crafters for Art in the Park on the first and third Saturday of each month from May through October, a Kids Market on June 12, Community Day on Sept. 11, and Farmers Market Celebration Week from Aug. 1–7. There will also be a harvest festival in October.
Meredith said customers should practice social distancing unless they’re with family members, and payment with credit cards is preferred. Hand sanitizer stations will be available and there is a public bathroom in the park where people can wash their hands. Masks will be available at the market manager’s tent.
Starting April 23, the Mary Washington Hospital Farmers Market will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Friday of every month until September at 1001 Sam Perry Blvd. It has two vendors, C&T Produce and Little Irv’s Bakery., and is primarily for hospital employees. The public can shop there, as well.
KING GEORGE MARKET
The King George Farmers Market will run from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays from April 24 to Oct. 30 at King George Middle School, 8246 Dahlgren Road.
It will have 32 vendors, which will be a record for the market. Six vendors are new to the market, including Wicked foods llc, which will sell breakfast sandwiches.
“If everybody shows up at one time, we’re going to have a very busy market,” said Agostinho Caldeira, the market manager.
Besides Wicked foods, the new vendors this year include 95 Grind Coffee Roasters, Color Puff Candy (cotton candy), Khadija’s Kitchen (Afghan kabobs, wraps and desserts), Sunrise Tea (fruity tea blends) and Valentour’s Honey Bees (honey and related products).
Three regular vendors will also return after taking a break during the pandemic. Vendors will be required to wear masks again this year, but customers don’t have to, since the market is outside, Caldeira said.
The market will hold Community Days on the first Saturday of each month from May through October. Other special events will include an art show Aug. 14, Family Day Aug. 21 and Spookfest on the day before Halloween.
Caldeira said that he’s also considering a beard competition for Father’s Day, but there’s just one problem.
“It’s hard to judge a beard or a styled mustache with a mask on,” he said.