While Northern Virginia is home to a surplus of farmers markets, there are some that provide even more for the community than fresh, locally grown produce, and that is the case with the Reston Farmers Market in Lake Anne Village.
For about 22 years, John Lovaas has been managing the market on Saturday mornings from April through December. His wife, Fran Lovaas joined him following retirement 16 years ago and the team’s newest addition, Keith Strange, came on board 10 years after that. In that time period, they have been part of several initiatives, including a program that provides dollars for low-income families and a sustainability project to reduce plastic waste, improving the overall well-being of Reston.
This past July, the trio was among a select group of community members to receive an Elly Doyle Service Award from the Fairfax County Park Authority for their commitment to volunteering in Fairfax County.
“Community service is probably the number one thing that sets them apart for this award,” says Mary Olien, site operations manager of the Fairfax County Park Authority. “They know the farmers and vendors very well, so they can promote the products in an honest way. They are highly respected, which makes for a very fun and organized market.”
The market managers have worked with local nonprofit Cornerstones since 2012 to enable low-income families to use their SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the Reston Farmers Market. Plus, after all the shoppers have cleared out, vendors gather all of the untouched produce together and bring it to local shelters, decreasing food waste.
This past year, the Lovaas’ and Strange partnered with Clean Fairfax to decrease the use of plastic at their weekly event. The Fairfax-based organization has helped the team to supply vendors with reusable mesh produce bags as an alternative to the small plastic bags typically found at grocery stores.
“For a farmer, a plastic bag costs a penny or two and the cloth bag costs 30 cents or so,” says John. “We are trying to find ways to substitute for that. Eventually, we would very much like to see the county require the vendors to charge for the plastic or just better yet ban the use of them completely.”
“While what we do is simple, it’s so important to the local community,” John says.
This fall, community members can expect typical seasonal goods, like root crops, apples and pumpkins, as well as new vendor King Mushrooms, that provides shoppers with over 10 varieties of mushrooms. While the Reston Farmers Market managers were awarded last month, they will be honored at a ceremony with the rest of the winners this November.
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