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(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)

The Virginia Beach Farmers Market is the ideal place to buy a wide range of fresh food and other produce. It is an easy 10 mile drive southwest of the downtown area and is open seven days a week all year round. The market holds a number of special events during the warmer months.

The market opened on 5 April 1976 on the site of Norfolk City Market House. This was originally a small wooden building of 30 feet by 15 feet built in the 17th century. It was burned down by British soldiers early in the American Revolutionary War and rebuilt in 1782. The new one was also destroyed in a fire by the British. A slightly bigger third market house, made of brick, wasn’t built until about 1900. Another market house, considerably larger, was constructed in 1923, but was demolished in 1956. Over the following two decades, the market had three homes: St. Vincent’s Hospital, Tars Ball Park, and Diamond Springs Road. It moved back to its original site on Dam Neck Road in 1976.

There are a large range of merchants at the market. Most of them sell fresh fruit and vegetables. You can also buy organic food, meat, dairy food, bread, and candy, as well as flowers and gifts. You can buy plants and various other items from Chapman’s Flowers, who have been at the market since 1979. They have vegetable and bedding plants, hanging baskets, indoor and outdoor decorations, wind chimes, jams, jellies, sauces, and more.

Skippers Farms have plants of all descriptions as well as fresh foods and jams and jellies. Try Seasons Best Bakery for various breads, pastries, and candies. At the Nesting Box are birdhouses and other items to do with birds. The Country Butcher & Deli Shop sells a range of meats, cheeses and sandwiches. Yoder Dairies has a variety of milk, cream, ice cream, and eggs, as well as sundaes and shakes.

The Virginia Garden Organic Grocery offers a wide range of healthy vegetables and fruit. The owner had the region’s first certified organic farm. Creekmore’s Place, Holland Produce, and S & H Produce all have various fresh fruits and vegetables and other food. There are a number of other vendors at the market. Some of the stores open all year, whereas others open from April to December. Most open from about 10am through to 4 or 5pm. The market has spaces available for rent.

Special events are put on by the market every few weeks between late March and early December. On July 11, 2009 is a Family Fun Day. After that, there is a Watermelon Festival on August 8. Other events later in the year include Harvest Fair, Pumpkin Patch Party & Trick a Trunk, and a Chili Cook Off. Most events are from 11am to 3pm, although some start earlier.

For some real country entertainment, try the Friday Night Hoedown every week from May to October at 7pm until 10pm. It’s free! The organizers recommend taking a chair or blanket as the event is held outside. There’s a different band each week playing country or bluegrass. In July 2009, you will see Country Review, Long & Short of it, Otto & Bluegrass America, Back Porch Boogie Band, and Ed Beard & The Rounders.

On the fourth Saturday of each month from April to September, the market holds an event called Saturday Night Cruise In. Patrons are encouraged to bring their classic autos of 25 years and older and meet old and new friends. Times are 5pm to 10pm, but remember, no alcohol, music, or speeding.

There is also the Princess Anne County Grill, with the history of the area featured in the restaurant’s decor. It uses fresh ingredients bought from Farmers Market vendors. The restaurant replicates old-fashioned country meals like those at grandma’s, including large portions. You can enjoy seafood, steaks, pies, cakes, and fresh produce.

Virginia Beach Farmers Market is at 3640 Dam Neck Road, on the corner of Princess Anne Road. It is open from 8.30am to 4.30pm every day. There are picnic tables and restrooms. So if you’re in the Virginia Beach area and want to try some delicious fresh food, visit the Farmers Market.