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Berries at the Spotsylvania County Farmers Market

I often find that the best way to really get to know a place is through its food. The product of a region’s farms and artisan food producers can really allow you to understand your surroundings, whether you’re travelling to a new place or getting to know your own neighborhood a little better.

The Fredericksburg region is a locavore’s dream. The number of farmers markets in this area grows every year, and the variety of products offered at these markets—from gourmet nut butters to fresh-roasted coffee to hand-crafted dog treats—is on the rise, as well. In addition, a growing number of area farms have opened their doors to the public, allowing you to comb the fields for the ripest berries and gain an appreciation for all it takes to bring high-quality food to our plates each day.

Here are my picks for must-visit tour stops for foodies this summer.

Spotsylvania Farmers Market

The Spotsylvania County Farmers Market is the largest market between Charlottesville and Richmond. With nearly 50 vendors, this market has so much  variety that you could easily build yourself a market-style picnic to take on your way to a day touring battlefields or an adventure on the water. In addition to a beautiful array of seasonal produce all grown within 100 miles of Spotsylvania, this market offers some one-of-a-kind products, such as Balsamo’s Family Kitchen gourmet salad dressings, microgreens from Glenburnie Farm and hand-made all-natural dog treats from Knick-Knack Paddy-Whack. In addition to buying food, plants and produce, you can also talk to the farmers who grow it. This market is open from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 20. Spotsylvania also runs a Wednesday market at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and a Thursday and Saturday market at Courthouse Village. Find more information on all of these markets here.

The Fredericksburg Farmers Market at Hurkamp Park in downtown Fredericksburg runs every day except for Sunday, but the biggest day is Saturday, when the street closes and the park comes alive with families and special events such as art shows. This is a great place to spend a leisurely Saturday morning. Pick out a pastry from one of several artisan bakers at the market, grab a strong cup of hot or iced coffee from 2530 Espresso’s tent and pick up a pint of fresh berries for an idyllic picnic breakfast in the middle of Hurkamp Park. When you’ve finished your shopping, you won’t need to move your car to spend the day strolling the streets of downtown Fredericksburg. This market runs from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Fredericksburg also runs a Thursday afternoon market at the corner of Tyler and Dixon streets from 3:30 until 6:30 p.m. Find details here.

The North Stafford Farmers Market offers the chance to buy fresh local produce on Sundays. This market is in its second year, and has been growing rapidly. Like the area’s other markets, North Stafford offers fresh produce along with some unique products you won’t find anywhere else. Take, for example, the gourmet nut butters made by Sprelly. With flavors like Sweet Thai Chili Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Almond Butter, you’ll never go back to plain old peanut butter and jelly. At North Stafford, you’ll also find Abner Butterfield Ice Cream, a local treat (try the Honey Orange flavor!). The market runs every Sunday through October from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. at 125 Hospital Center Blvd. in Stafford. Putting together a market meal is a great alternative to fast food if you happen to be driving up Interstate 95 on a Sunday! Get full market information here

Local berry picking is a great summer activity.

If you’d rather pick berries from the bush than from the market table, plan a visit to one of the region’s family-owned farms.

Miller Farms in Spotsylvania County is a peaceful and beautiful place to pick raspberries, blueberries and blackberries this time of year. The farm also offers pick-your-own strawberries earlier in the season. After you pick, you can shop the market for artisan food products from around the region and a large array of fresh produce and garden plants grown on the farm. For updated information on what's ready to pick, click here

Inside the Fredericksburg city limits Braehead Farm preserves the last remaining farm within the city. Here you can pick your own berries, bring young kids to play in the sand piles and hay barn, see chickens, pigs and other animals and shop in the gourmet market. Grab a group of friends and reserve a fire pit for s’more roasting on the farm. For more information, click here