Harvest Time in Hunt Country
September is a harvest of happenings in the Blue Ridge, not the least of which is a cornucopia of freshly harvested local fresh fruits and vegetables available at fruit stands and farmers markets throughout the hunt country. Get the last of the summer peaches, or choose ripe tomatoes, melons, berries, silver queen corn, or the early season apples. Road stands abound, and the farmers’ markets are chock full of farm fresh produce.
One of my favorite farm stores is the Buckland Farm Market, open daily 7 days a week (see hours here www.BucklandFarmMarket.com .) I’ve been shopping there for years, since it was just a shed open seasonally, on southbound Rt. 29, just over the Fauquier County line. It’s always had picked that morning fresh produce; now it’s housed in a new building in the same location. Part of Avalon Farm, they grow organic meats and produce and have an onsite bakery with fresh breads, cakes, pies and other treats. Everything in the spacious market is either grown right there on the farm, or from neighboring farms. Another local favorite farmers market continues every Sunday at Archwood Greens in The Plains. Open from 11-4 Sundays, this market has produce, baked goods, meats, herbs and plants, and more. Archwood Greens is located right off I66 on Old Tavern Rd. in The Plains.
In addition to farm animals, Leesburg Animal Park has squirrel monkeys, giant tortoises, lemurs, and lots of baby animals born this summer including llamas, donkeys, goats and ponies. Here, children can pet and interact with lots of farm and other animals, including cows, sheep, bunnies, llamas, donkeys and more. There are pony rides and sometimes even camel rides available. They also have an exotic animal exhibit, a playground and more. You can arrange to host birthday parties or special events there and even have them bring animals to you for parties and/or events with their new “Rent a Zoo” program. Details and admission/hours are on www.LeesburgAnimalPark.com
For the best of the farms, check out the Virginia State Fair which showcases livestock, produce, crafts, baked goods, and just about anything farm-related plus concerts, rides, dances, and more. It’s in Richmond at the Richmond Raceway Complex September 26 – October 6. Call 800-588-3247 or visit them at http://www.statefair.com.
Crazy for Mazes
Children of all ages love them—harvested corn with paths throughout so kids (and adults) can wander through. Some are even shaped with messages, most of which aren’t evident from the ground. By September, the corn is high enough that it’s over a man’s head. Admission is nominal—and there are plenty to choose from in the area, including the farmers’ market just south of Leesburg on Rt. 15, the one at the Archwood Greens Farmers’ Market mentioned above, and one of the best, at Al Mara in Midland.
Al Mara Farm is a working dairy farm about 12 miles south of Manassas on Rt. 28. The corn maze there last year was a work of art—a patch of corn planted in the shape of a cow and calf, with the paths forming the words “cow crazy.” Al Mara is one of the few remaining working dairy farms left in Fauquier County. In addition to the maze, families can see and pet baby calves (the farm is home to 350 head of dairy cattle) or visit with the sheep, donkeys, goats, horses and roosters. Hay rides are also offered. The farm is open to the public weekends until Nov. 3. For information, call (540)439-4806 or visit their website at www.Cows-n-Corn.com.
Polo is traditionally thought of as a summer sport, but it’s still going full swing in September. The arena series of games Saturday nights continue at Great Meadow polo in The Plains every Saturday through September and usually hosts one or more end of season tournaments, including the United States Polo Association’s National Arena Polo Championships, . This prestigious event pits the country’s top amateurs and professionals and promises lots of action. Field play also continues throughout September. For details, call Great Meadow’s polo office at (540)253-5156.
The Virginia Wine Festival will also be held at Great Meadow the weekend of Sept. 13th & 14th, and you can taste the local bounty as well as watch the polo games. www.GreatMeadow.org for information on events there. Horse shows are also plentiful during the month of September, with one of the country’s oldest held Labor Day weekend in Warrenton. The 114th annual Warrenton Horse Show is a Labor Day tradition, featuring ladies sidesaddle, hunters, jumpers, and local hunts and hounds. Call (540)349-0910. And steeplechase racing returns to Virginia for the fall season in September, with races over hurdles and timber beginning Sept, 20 with the Blue Ridge Fall Races in Berryville www.BlueRidgeFallRaces.com and moves to Charlottesville Sept. 28th for the Foxfield Fall Races www.foxfieldraces.com.
Written by: Julie Reardon