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Grown Expo Draws Droves of Local Food Fans

Purcellville event brings the farm to town, and shows off the restored Bush Tabernacle.

Sharon Buchanan McIntosh sold every family-pack of Buchanan Farms beef and pork. The Lovettsville Cooperative Market store got a few new members. Bill Baker contacted several hundred new customers for his “local lamb, from the meadows of Loudoun County, Virginia.”

A crowd of more than 1,000 at Purcellville’s first –an annual event is on the town’s calendar – answered the question, “Is anyone out there interested in local foods and products?

Visitors crowded into the venerable Bush Tabernacle/Skating Rink in Purcellville Feb. 19, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. to find out exactly what a “Loudoun Grown Expo” is. In the Tabernacle – recently restored and doing quadruple duty as a roller rink, community meeting place, teen club and Expo headquarters – they found live music from three local bands and 28 vendors offering locally grown meats, flowers, vegetables, baked goods, wine and Loudoun’s first locally distilled whiskey since Prohibition.

“Part of doing this,” said Purcellville Councilman Greg Wagner, who also serves on the Economic Development Advisory Committee that made the Expo a reality, “is to develop an awareness of how many great local producers there are. At the same time, we showcase the Tabernacle and Skating Rink and we demonstrate what a great meeting space this is.”

The Bush Tabernacle was built in 1904, the first permanent structure for the Temperance Society, according to Wagner. Several years ago, the town bought it from the Purcellville Volunteer Company and spent $1.5 million dollars modernizing the structure (not the appearance), redoing the roof and installing geothermal heating and cooling. “It’s warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than it’s ever been,” Wagner said, “and it’s open for kids activities and community events seven days a week.”

The Tabernacle has served the community for more than a century,” added Purcellville Mayor Bob Lazaro. “We’re proud of it, want people to come here. The success of rural Loudoun is the success of the town.”

The yet-to-be-realized Lovettsville Cooperative Market  attracted scores of interested shoppers. Floyd Blethen, for many years a presence at farmers markets with his homegrown shitake mushrooms, manned the coop’s booth and explained the venture – a market for natural foods in Lovettsville -- to the curious. The by-laws of the Lovettsville Cooperative Market commit it to “support local agriculture by offering a reliable year round wholesale buyer for locally produced goods, increasing availability of food produced within a 150 mile radius of Lovettsville.”

The co-op board, chaired by Pamela Baldwin of Weather Lea Farm, has established a goal of 500 members before they are ready to set up shop. A membership costs $200 and the coop will assess an annual fee, as does Costco and other membership stores.

When Bill Baker, who raises sheep and sells lamb at his New Asbury Farm south of Leesburg, saw advertisements for the Expo, he thought “What a great time to meet new customers before the farmers markets open.” New Asbury Farm is a presence at the Ashburn Farmers Market, which won’t open for several months, and also does some selling in the District of Columbia. Customers looking for roasts, chops, shanks, ground lamb and sausage are always welcome at the farm.

Rather grow your won food? Linna the Locavore was on hand to offer “inspiration” and instruction. ”I teach people that anyone, no matter how little time or space, can grow their own food.”

The Expo was the first public appearance for Waterford’s Buchanan Farms  which offers pasture raised grain fed Angus beef (whole, halves and custom orders), pork (whole or custom) and lamb (whole or custom, in season).

“It just seemed like a great venue to reach out for what we have,” Sharon McIntosh said.  “We haven’t been in the farmers markets and we feel we produce a high quality meat. It’s grain fed, which we think gives us higher quality than grass-only fed, but raised on quality pasture, with quality hay and silage.”

McIntosh is about to expand the “pig pen,” but for now demand meets or exceeds her supply of lamb and pork.

And she offers what may be the only Mule Foot Pig in Virginia. The Mule Foot is close to extinction because it is very lean and takes much longer to get to market – commercial pig farms have no interest in it. McIntosh’s first Mile Foot, born last year, is at the butcher now, and she will have six more next fall.

The dream was to showcase the bounty of rural Loudoun, and to introduce the rebuilt Tabernacle to the community, Wagner said. ”What better way to do that than to celebrate western Loudoun,” he said. “If not us, who else could do this?”

A list of all Loudoun Grown Expo vendors and their contact information is available on its website.

Jed February 21, 2011 at 02:35 AM
What about Quarterbranch Farm? It is local and organically grown and there are lots of choices. Look forward to seeing more of this good for you food.
Shannon Sollinger March 20, 2011 at 02:00 PM
See article on Forum for Rural Innovation -- Kevin Grove/Quarterbranch received one of the Innovation Awards. Keep the comments (and sugggestions) coming. shannon

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