It takes two hours to set up, and an hour to break down, the tiny Willowsford Farm Stand in Ashburn.
This is not a farm stand in name only, an homage to a time when farms pitched tables along the road, hoping cars would stop by for hours-from-the-ground lettuces.
The open-air Willowsford Farm Stand (at The Grange, one of four Willowsford villages) operates just a few hundred feet from the actual farm, where rows and rows and acres and acres host radishes and eggplants, chickens and pigs.
New this year are more presents for the pantry curated by retail manager Ashley Swensen. The provisions swing Southern (Swensen lived in North Carolina) with Geechie Boy Mill grits (South Carolina), Doux South honey mustard (Georgia) and Pork Clouds, aka fried pork rinds (Georgia). And the new farm manager, Collin Thompson, is working to get the farm, already in line with organic practices, organic certified.
Closer to home, find Leesburg’s Whippourwill mixes for cornbread pancakes and pizookies (chocolate chip pizza cookies) and Ashburn’s CoolMama granola in various mixes. Of course, there’s tons of fruits (U-pick berries in the summer) and vegetables, a freezer of meat from their own animals and other local farms and, one of the most popular items: artisinal and vegan ice creams. To keep the kids entertained, there’s a chicken paddock, tot-sized plastic tractors and single-serve ice pops from Richmond’s King of Pops.
The last Wednesday of every month, the staff hosts a Twilight Farm Tour. It’s an informal peek at the greens bursting through soil and the seedlings growing within the safety of hoop houses. Food doesn’t just appear on store shelves. It’s grown, right here. // Open Tuesday through Wednesday, 2 to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.to 2 p.m.); 23595 Founders Drive, Ashburn
Willowsford Farm Sausage
“Sausage is my savior,” says Ashley Swensen (pictured above). Throw it on the grill or add to tomato sauce, it’s a go-to for weeknight meals. The hot Italian is a favorite of Swensen’s because it eliminates one step: “It’s already spiced.” ($10)
South Mountain Creamery
“Local dairy is hard to find,” says Swensen, which is why she sells whole-cream-on-top milk, butter, ice cream and cheese from this Maryland operation. “Shopping organic is the first step,” she says, but supporting a nearby farm “lowers the environmental impact.” She loves the gouda; it “makes a really nice grilled cheese.”
Big Spoon Roasters
Swensen is so protective of this Durham, North Carolina almond butter, she says, “I don’t bring it home, I just leave it on my desk with a spoon,” so her family can’t get into it. ($11)
Micro Spicy Mix
Microgreens aren’t just cute garnishes. “They have the same nutritional density as a much larger vegetable,” says Swensen. Microgreens come in a spicy mix (mustard greens, radish greens, baby arugula) and one with sunflower shoots. Add them to sandwiches, pasta and omelets. ($5)