Arlington, VA

A new farmers market may be coming to Pentagon City.

On Saturday, April 17, the County Board is planning to hear a permit request from the National Landing Business Improvement District about holding an open-air farmers market at the plaza area in the northern portion of Metropolitan Park, about 2-3 blocks from the Pentagon City Metro station.

The farmers market would take place on Saturdays, April through November, from 8 a.m.-noon. However, the market would not start until June this year, National Landing BID spokesperson Ashley Forrester tells ARLnow.

The reason for the delay, writes Forrester, is so that the BID can do more planning in advance and set themselves “up for success in future years” for when there’s a new park.

Metropolitan Park is on the verge of getting a $14 million makeover courtesy of Amazon and its new, adjacent HQ2, with design work from James Corner Field Operations of New York’s High Line fame. That project is expected to be completed in 2023.

The market will be operated by Freshfarm Markets, which runs nearly 30 markets in the D.C.-area including four in Arlington.

If approved, the market would be able to accommodate up to 20 vendors, who would park along 13th Street S. and S. Fair Street.

The staff report notes that the area around Metropolitan Park contains several high-rise, multi-family apartment buildings, so they expect most patrons to the farmers market will likely walk or bike there.

The County Board will review the use permit for the farmers market again in a year, April 2022.

This additional market would give Arlington nine active farmers markets, a number of which have opened or will be opening in the coming weeks.

Pre-ordering is still being encouraged as a safety measure, but all the markets are open for in-person shopping. It’s a change from early last year when markets were briefly shut down due to the pandemic and, then, allowed to reopen only for pre-order sales.

Photo via Flickr/Cliff

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Grab a basket and brush up on your produce-scoping skills, it’s farmers market season once again.

A number of Arlington farmers markets have or will be opening for the season in the coming days, including:

  • Crystal City on Tuesdays, from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. (starting tomorrow, April 6)
  • Ballston on Thursdays, from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. (opened on April 1)

Several other farmers markets will be opening in the weeks to follow, including:

  • Lubber Run on Saturdays starting April 17, from 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Fairlington on Sundays, starting May 2, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Rosslyn on Wednesdays, starting May 5, from 3 p.m.-7 p.m.

Three Arlington farmer markets are open year-around, though with shifting hours depending on the season including:

  • Westover’s Sunday winter hours of 9 a.m.-1 p.m. will remain until May 2, a market representative confirmed, when it shifts 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Courthouse’s Saturday farmers market shifts their hours to 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on April 17.
  • The Columbia Pike market on Sundays is now in the parking lot of the Fillmore Shopping Center and keeps the hours of 8:30-11:30 a.m. year around.

The Courthouse farmers market is the oldest in Arlington, selling produce since 1979. All of the markets will have modified operations, including limited capacity, as a result of the pandemic.

In total, Arlington has eight farmer markets.

The Marymount University farmers market closed last year and is not currently operational, a county official confirms. It opened in 2016, billing itself as the only Arlington market north of Lee Highway.

Despite being encouraged to offer pre-ordering, markets are open for in-person shopping. This is a change from early last year, at the start of the pandemic, when markets were briefly shut down and then allowed to open for pre-ordered sales only.

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(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) The Arlington County Council of PTAs is collecting money through Friday to buy fresh produce for families in need, with help from a local farmers market operator.

Through the initiative — part of the council’s pandemic relief efforts — the CCPTA is partnering with FRESHFARM Markets to provide fresh food to about 900 families who have been receiving food through seven PTA and school-based distribution sites. Fundraising will go until Dec. 4, with an extra push today (Dec. 1) for Giving Tuesday.

The food will be given out at the regular distribution times during the week of Monday, Dec. 14. So far, the council is more than halfway toward its goal: $11,851 of $20,000 has been raised as of publication time.

“We must ensure that children and their families do not go hungry,” said Emily Vincent, the CCPTA President in a statement. “Addressing food insecurity is essential to both well-being and education, as it is difficult for children to learn when they are hungry.”

Families have been able to access food, school and cleaning supplies, baby items and masks at the distribution sites since the spring, Vincent said. During the summer, these sites served approximately 2,500 families.

The work supplements the meal distributions organized by Arlington Public Schools.

“Our volunteer efforts are committed to serving their school communities and they are hopeful for a more sustainable and robust support system coordinated by Arlington County in the new year,” Vincent said.

The drive also supports local farmers, who have struggled to profit from their produce this year due to the pandemic.

In addition to running farmers markets in the D.C. area, FRESHFARM distributes local produce to small institutions such as daycares, which often lack the money and bulk needed to buy from larger distributors.

The arm of the nonprofit responsible for this program, Pop Up Food Hub, will purchase the food for the CCPTA fundraiser. A $22 donation to this food drive covers a week’s worth of produce for a family of four.

“While families have been grateful for the various types of food assistance that are available in the neighborhood, many have requested assistance with obtaining fresh food beyond the non-perishable pantry food products and single serve meals,” the donation page said.

Many food drives focus on packaged goods because they last and can be bought cheaply, said Sebastian Muenchrath, an operations manager for Pop Up Food Hub. But that pushes fresh fruits and vegetables to the side for hungry people who need a balanced diet, too.

The bags will rely on long-lasting winter staples such as squash, onions, apples and potatoes, with some leafy greens, although they are scarcer these days.

The CCPTA has “been great at understanding what the local supply looks like right now,” he said.

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Morning Notes

Courthouse Wendy’s Project Changing — “A new developer appears to be taking over a Carr Properties’ project in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood, queuing up a switch from office to residential in the process. Greystar Real Estate Partners filed new plans with Arlington County earlier this month for a triangular parcel at the confluence of Clarendon and Wilson boulevards… [for] a 16-story residential building with 225 units above 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.” [Washington Business Journal]

Opera at Local Farmers Market — Two operatic performance will be held at the Crystal City farmers market this afternoon. The Washington National Opera performances will take place from a converted moving truck. [Facebook, WUSA 9]

Airports See Big Revenue Drop — “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has seen its year-to-date revenue from airlines decline more than 23 percent, according to new figures, with revenue from sources indirectly related to aviation service declining 46 percent.” [InsideNova]

Dog Hit By Car Gets Second Chance — Thanks to efforts by the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and three other groups, a puppy named Cash had a broken leg, suffered after being struck by a car, saved from amputation. [Facebook]

Alexandria Releases Contact Tracing Info — Alexandria just released an analysis of its contact tracing findings, showing the most common recent activities reported by those diagnosed with COVID-19. Among the top activities reported by COVID patients: living with someone who contracted the disease and going to a workplace. Relatively few reported recently dining outdoors. Arlington has yet to release similar information. [City of Alexandria, Twitter]

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Morning Notes

McDonald’s Rebuild Decision Delayed — “Action on a proposal to rebuild the existing McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in the 4800 block of Lee Highway has been put off for another two months. Arlington County officials and the applicant had sparred over the plan, which also would include a revamped traffic-circulation design.” [InsideNova]

Bollards Deter Dangerous I-395 Driving — VDOT has installed new bollards to prevent drivers from cutting across northbound I-395 to access the HOV bridge. The barriers appears to be doing the trick, succeeding where orange barrels previously failed. [Twitter]

Crystal City Farmers Market Moving — “Arlington County Board members on July 18 approved the temporary relocation of the once-a-week Crystal City Farmers’ Market, so services could continue to be provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. The traditional spot of the market – the 2000-2100 block of Crystal Drive – does not have enough room to space out vendors.” [InsideNova]

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Farmers markets in Arlington closed briefly by the coronavirus outbreak will be allowed to re-open this weekend, but with a catch: vendors can only offer food that’s been pre-ordered before the market.

The new rules are meant to bring local farmers markets in compliance with guidance from the state government. A similar policy was enacted for markets in Alexandria.

“To limit the exposure to COVID-19, vendors are not permitted to display food or on-site shopping,” Arlington County said in a press release. “This guidance enables markets to remain open giving Arlingtonians access to fresh, locally-grown food while promoting social distancing.”

While others will be opening later this spring, three Arlington farmers markets are currently in season and expected to reopen for order pickups:

Each of the markets will be limited to no more than ten customers at a time, and customers are being asked to comply with social distancing guidelines to prevent the person-to-person spread of the virus. Food orders will be boxed and the press release said customers are asked to avoid touching or inspecting their orders on-site.

Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said that some of the vendors have options to place orders online, while others might have to be contacted directly by phone or email. While the process may be cumbersome for the first weekend, Kalish said that should be ironed out over the coming weeks.

The Columbia Pike Farmers Market announced today that it will be taking online orders for three vendors.

“To ensure we can continue to support our local farmers and provide the community with needed produce and goods while complying with state-wide guidance on distancing and gathering restrictions, we have temporarily moved our Farmers Market to the web,” said the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. “Customers will now order from our vendors online and pick up their orders at the market on Sundays. We currently have 3 vendors prepared to take orders for pick-up THIS Sunday, March 29. Please note that orders MUST be placed in advance, unless otherwise noted. There will be no shopping at the market.”

The nearby Falls Church farmers market is also reopening this weekend with similar rules in place.

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Morning Notes

Resources to Assist Those in Need — Arlington County has created a list of food, financial and medical assistance that is available for neighbors in need during the coronavirus outbreak. [Arlington County]

Vihstadt Stands Up for Farmers Markets — “At Saturday’s County Board meeting, former board member John Vihstadt rapped the state government for lumping in farmers’ markets – of which Arlington has nearly a dozen operating throughout the week – with restaurants (which for the most part are now closed to dine-in service and in many cases are shuttered completely) rather than treating them as supermarkets (which remain open and running at full strength).” [InsideNova]

Giant Adjusting Store Hours — “Effective Friday, March 27, most Giant Food stores will adjust hours of operations to be open from 6:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m… The first hour of operations, 6:00-7:00 a.m. is reserved for senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals, including pregnant women and caregivers shopping for the immunocompromised, so that they may shop and practice safe social distancing.” [Press Release]

Va. Liquor Stores Limit Hours — “The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) will reduce operating hours at all of its stores statewide beginning Friday, March 27, due to the expanding nature of the COVID-19 outbreak… stores across the commonwealth will be open from noon to 7 p.m., seven days a week, starting Friday, March 27.” [Virginia ABC]

County to Help Hospital with Bond Sale — “Continuing a 42-year tradition of collaboration, the Arlington County government will assist Virginia Hospital Center in issuing bonds to support new construction. County Board members on March 21 authorized the government’s Industrial Development Authority, or IDA, to issue up to $300 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds to support the effort.” [InsideNova]

Local Catholic Schools Embrace Distance Learning — “The Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Catholic Schools announced the successful stand-up of distance learning in all 41 parish schools and high schools in the Diocese. Distance learning is now in place, offering interactive, personalized instruction to students through the remainder of the academic year.” [Press Release]

Local Leaders Urge Rent Leniency — “There are new calls for landlords to freeze [rent] payments to help mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic… ‘We need them to show compassion on the front end, and we’ll work to make sure they’re made whole on the back end,’ said Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tomb Sentinels Are Still Guarding — “There is a sacred duty not even a pandemic can stop: a rite of continuity still carried out in Arlington National Cemetery even as much of the country shuts down. The sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier recently marked more than 30,000 days of constant watch over the remains of unidentified U.S. service members — a streak persisting through the pandemic.” [WUSA 9]

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Update at 11:20 p.m. — The Westover Farmers Market announced that it is now “closed until further notice.”

Earlier: At least one Arlington farmers markets is still, as of Friday afternoon, scheduled to be held over the next week, despite calls for closures.

While grocery stores remain open, Arlington County on Friday issued a press release calling for the closure of the open air, weekly farmers markets.

Arlington County is committed to the health and safety of our community and our employees. On March 17, 2020, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the State Health Commissioner issued a Joint Executive Order restricting the number of patrons allowed in restaurants, fitness centers and theaters to 10 or less.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has interpreted this to apply to farmers markets as well. While Arlington does not have the authority to close all farmers markets, we ask organizers to take responsible action and suspend their operations this weekend, Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22. The County is awaiting further guidance from the Commonwealth regarding mass gatherings and food sources.

The health and safety of the Arlington community is our highest priority and we are grateful for your cooperation.

Please continue to practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. To stay updated on the status of COVID-19, visit arlingtonva.us/coronavirus.

The Arlington Farmers Market in Courthouse is set to be closed this weekend due to the coronavirus outbreak, while the Lubber Run, Fairlington, Ballston, Crystal City, Rosslyn and Marymount markets have not yet started up for the season. But Westover farmers market, at last check, was still slated to be held on Sunday.

The organizers of the markets posted on social media, asking customers to sign a letter of support for keeping farmers markets open and making the case for why they’re both safe and essential.

We believe farmers markets are essential to our community food security. Please consider signing this letter of support to keep farmers markets.

Posted by Westover Farmers Market on Friday, March 20, 2020

Arlington playgrounds, athletic courts and dog parks, meanwhile, remain open — despite the concerns of some residents, expressed in emails to ARLnow, about a lack of social distancing.

“I live right by Rocky Run Park… I walked by tonight and could not believe how many people were out playing basketball,” one concerned resident said Thursday. “I get little kids having to get out and run around but one court was packed with adults! These people should know better. There are so many old people in this neighborhood — the basketball court looked like the Florida spring break beaches.”

From Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish:

Arlington’s parks, fields, playgrounds, dog parks, courts and trails remain open for self-directed recreation and leisure. These spaces provide a critical connection to the outdoors and green space as well as opportunities for physical activity, which studies demonstrate reduces stress and improves mental health.

While our outdoor facilities are open, we encourage residents to stay home if they don’t feel well, avoid non-essential gatherings of 10 or more people, practice social distancing by maintaining six feet of personal space and to wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer. If they plan on touching equipment, we asked that they wipe it down with disinfectant wipes before and after use.

We are posting signs in English and Spanish in our public spaces over the weekend to emphasize this message.

These are challenging times. The health and safety of the Arlington community is our highest priority and we are grateful for their cooperation. The County continues to monitor recommendations and best practices, and will make adjustments as necessary.

In nearby Falls Church, the city has suspended its farmers market and also closed playgrounds due to concern about community spread of coronavirus.

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An urban farming movement growing across the country already is “booming” here in Arlington, supporters say.

“There is absolutely a boom,” said Rebecca Carpenter, founder of Arlington startup Sprout which installs backyard gardens and trains people in how to grow their own produce. “I feel like it is everywhere across the country but I feel it more so in Arlington because folks here are pretty health conscious, progressive.”

Crops can be grown in urban environments in several ways, including rooftop gardens, vertical farms, and green walls. In Arlington, officials say community gardens are one of the most popular methods.

There are 379 Arlington residents who grow fruits, vegetables, or flowers in community gardens, and another 628 on waiting lists, according to Urban Agriculture Coordinator Kim Haun of the county’s parks department. That’s after the county added space for 150 more gardeners over the last three years.

“More and more people are realizing the benefits of urban farming,” said Haun. “It creates a sense of belonging, just check out a community garden on a weekend, the gardeners are family.”

Fertile Soil in Arlington

Officials told ARLnow that a combination of demographics and development opportunity make the county fertile soil — so to speak — for community gardens, and green roofs. And beekeeper Brad Garmon said these same resources made the county an ideal home for bee businesses. Either way, everyone who spoke with ARLnow reported increases in the number of people seeking agricultural training and resources.

“I would say it’s definitely been an increased interest. We’ve witnessed our membership levels increase substantially over the past year,” said Matt McKinstry, a board member of the Arlington-based Friends of Urban Agriculture (FOUA.) He said 100 new people joined the organization last year, bringing membership totals to around 500.

One reason?

“Millennials, the 20 and 30 somethings, are becoming aware of food production and the effects of industrialized agriculture,” said McKinstry. “And they’re curious to understand where their food comes from and how they can both support their local economy and as well as find healthier food options.”

According to program leader Kirsten Conrad, there are 230 people in Arlington certified with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program — up from the usual cohort of about 200 people.

“I think there’s a much better understanding of the value of the native plants and supporting our birds and insects,” said Conrad of the changes in recent years.

Backyard Farmers

Community gardens in Arlington have blossomed over the past decade: from the Glebe Community Garden, which is assessable for gardeners with disabilities, to the Walter Reed Garden, which is tended by senior citizens and teenagers, to the Reevesland Learning Garden, which teaches Ashlawn Elementary students about growing lettuce.

Haun with DPR said there is no data on the number of private homeowners or businesses who have their own plots, but the county is aware of 57 private plots throughout Arlington that people use to farm crops for the Arlington Food Assistance Center, which collected almost 100,000 pounds worth of locally grown fresh produce for its food bank.

Carpenter says people are also growing produce in their backyard — and increasingly, in their front yard too.

“If you do want to grow edibles you do have to get strategic about where you want to plant them,” she said. “And the front lawn is usually the best place to do that.”

This is because front lawns typically have more sun, are flat, and have easy access to a hose. Still some challenges remain: mature trees can make some yards too shady to grow crops, and hungry deer can cause conflicts.

While growing plants in one’s yard is perfectly permissible, a movement earlier this decade to spur the growth of another form of urban agriculture in Arlington came up short: proposals to allow backyard hen raising in more Arlington yards were largely shot down.

The backyard hen issue was taken up by an Urban Agriculture Task Force, led by John Vihstadt before he was elected to the County Board, and which later formed FOUA. Despite the hen proposal stalling, some of the task force’s short-term recommendations, presented to the Board in 2013, have since been implemented, including:

Urban Beekeeping

One company looking to take advantage of all the buzz around native plants and insects is Charlottesville-based Commonwealth Bee Co.

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Morning Notes

Home Prices Around HQ2 Soar — “The median sale prices for all home types in the 22202 ZIP code, where Amazon is building and staffing up HQ2, was $995,000 in July — the highest for any month in a decade — according to data provided by MarketStats by ShowingTime based on listing activity from Bright MLS. It’s a 72% jump from June, when median sales were at $615,000, and a 25% year-over-year increase.” [Washington Business Journal, InsideNova]

ACPD Launches Anti-DUI Campaign — “The high-visibility national enforcement campaign, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, runs from August 14 through September 2, 2019. During this period, police will conduct nightly saturation patrols with the goal of drastically reducing incidents of drunk driving on our roadways.” [Arlington County]

Courthouse Market Back On Next Weekend — After initially being set to skip next weekend due to scheduled parking lot paving, the Courthouse farmers market is back on for Saturday, Aug. 24. [Arlington County]

Amazon Truck Blocks GW Parkway — The southbound GW Parkway was temporarily blocked at the Memorial Bridge yesterday afternoon due to a too-tall Amazon tractor trailer. [Twitter]

Betting at Local Bars — “Locally, prosecutors haven’t paid much attention to the games. Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said she wasn’t even aware that any machines were in the county until informed by the WBJ that bars in both Clarendon and Ballston operate them. An Arlington police spokeswoman said the department hasn’t noticed “any issues or concerns related to” the machines.” [Washington Business Journal]

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A week after devastating flash flooding, the lights are coming back on for some affected businesses in Arlington.

SER Restaurant in Ballston, which was inundated by water coming through the ceiling during the Flash Flood Emergency, is planning to reopen at 5 p.m. today (Monday), co-owner Christiana Campos told ARLnow.

The reopening comes after the local community rallied to raise more than $10,000 for SER in a GoFundMe campaign. SER says the donations are being used to help fund needed repairs while the owners work through the insurance claim process.

“Thanks to our hard working staff, our construction crew who have been working around the clock to fix the damage and thanks to the humbling outpouring of support from the community, we are so thrilled to being opening today,” Campos told ARLnow. “The power of this community is truly incredible.”

In Westover, where floodwaters destroyed merchandise and knocked out power, the two hardest-hit businesses — Westover Market and Beer Garden, and Ayers Variety and Hardware — first reopened in a limited fashion on Wednesday. Over the weekend, Westover Market announced it was back on utility power and off generators.

“Finally! Regular hours going forward!” the store exclaimed on Facebook. “Limited fresh produce [and] meats have been delivered! Every day we’ll inch closer to 100%. Thanks so much for all the incredible support! We need it! And please send support and prayers to the other businesses affected by the storm!”

A GoFundMe campaign for the Westover merchants has raised more than $67,500.

Also in Westover, the weekly farmers market was held over the weekend, thanks to quick repairs to 18th Street N., which was damaged by the flooding. On Saturday, the director of the company that organizes the market wrote the following letter to Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz, lauding the dedicated repair crews.

Mr. Schwartz —

I was notified late this afternoon that the emergency street repairs on 18th Street N. have been completed. Our nonprofit organization is very grateful for the County’s quick response to address the street damage caused by the torrential rain last Monday morning…

This section of the roadway serves on Sunday mornings as a key part of the Westover Farmers Market. We have been in contact with vendors all week regarding whether the Westover Farmers Market could take place, given the roadway damage caused by the storm. This evening I was able to send them an “all clear” message. So tomorrow morning’s market should run without a hitch. […]

Please send our thanks to the personnel in the Department of Environmental Services and to the contractors who assist them for a job well and quickly done. The neighbors who shop each week at this farmers market will benefit from their outstanding efforts this week.

Rob Swennes, Executive Director
Field to Table, Inc.

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