By Paula Combs

It is the time of year where farmers are planning for harvests, restaurants are offering locally grown ingredients in their dishes, and the farmers’ markets and grocers have baskets of just-picked goodness. It’s always nice to have the inside scoop on where to find all of this fresh and delicious bounty, which is one of the reasons why The Piedmont Environmental Council publishes the “Buy Fresh Buy Local” guide.

PEC launched Virginia’s first ‘Buy Fresh Buy Local” campaign in 2006 to help consumers find local products while building relationships between growers, food artisans, farmers’ markets, restaurants and institutions. Every year, a guide is published for Loudoun County, the Charlottesville area and the Northern Piedmont, with the goal of growing the local food economy.

“We mailed 136,000 guides to Loudoun mailboxes this spring—just in time for searching out a nearby farm or farmers market to purchase food this summer,” says Jess Palmer, PEC’s Farm and Food Program coordinator.

Gilbert Corner, 141 Acres Celebration Event in May 2014. Photo by Paula Combs and Piedmont Environmental Council

Gilbert Corner, 141 Acres Celebration Event in May 2014. Photo by Paula Combs and Piedmont Environmental Council

Loudoun’s “Buy Fresh Buy Local” guide features nearly 150 local food producers and distributors. Among the listings are 78 local farms, nine farmers’ markets, 30 wineries, 20 restaurants and 12 retailers.

One of the stories highlighted this year is about Spring House Farm, owned and operated by the Crush family. The farm began as a way to help provide local restaurants with high-quality meats, and they have expanded over the last decade to include Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and a-la-carte options. By the end of summer, the family is planning to open a new farm store in Hamilton, Virginia, to sell responsibly raised, sustainable and ecologically friendly beef, pork, chicken, goat, lamb and eggs from Spring House, along with produce and dairy from other local farms.

Spring House Farm. Photo by Alyssa Wiltse

Spring House Farm. Photo by Alyssa Wiltse

Also featured in the guide is PEC’s new Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows and their partnership with Loudoun Hunger Relief.

“One in 10 children live in households with limited access to healthy food in Loudoun County,” says Palmer. “We wanted to help address this issue, and PEC President Chris Miller was inspired by his involvement with the Fauquier Education Farm, where they recruit volunteers to plant, harvest and pack fresh produce grown on approximately 10 acres at Moriah Farm for people in need.

“We are using a similar model on a portion of our Roundabout Meadows property near Gilbert’s Corner for a community farm, which will help supply food to organizations like Loudoun Hunger to address the chronic food insecurity among vulnerable populations in the county,” she adds.   

Some other items in the guide include reminders for upcoming events such as farm tours and county fairs, a “Fruit and Vegetable Availability” calendar, composting tips and a tasty recipe. In addition, a list of CSAs in the area is provided. Signing up for a CSA allows residents to get their weekly produce and other products while directly supporting a local farm.

Today you can find nine “Buy Fresh Buy Local” chapters throughout Virginia. PEC is the regional coordinator of three of those chapters—Northern Piedmont, Charlottesville Area and Loudoun County—and is the statewide coordinator for the BuyLocalVirginia.org website. Guides are produced annually and distributed each spring.

“If you are a local farm, restaurant or retailer who sells locally sourced products and would like to be listed in future publications, you can sign up through the Buy Local Virginia website or send an email to us at bfbl@pecva.org,” explains Palmer. ML