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The (Original) Reston Farm Market History

“The Best of Every Season”

The (Original) Reston Farm Market, located near the corner of Baron Cameron Avenue and Leesburg Pike adjacent to the community of Reston, VA, served the local community for 23 years starting in 1974 when Hall Kern, the owner and proprietor started peddling pumpkins, then Christmas trees from a Volkswagen bus at the site.  In 1976 he broke ground on 2.5 acres of Mack Crippen’s dairy farm for a building originally featuring dirt floors and no walls, where the only source of water was from rain collected in old oak whiskey barrels.  The entrepreneur then expanded the structure and created many opportunities for unique cross-seasonal growth of the Reston Farm Market until the closing in the summer of 1997.  At one point, the Reston Farm Market occupied 9,000 square feet on approximately 16 acres with annual retail sales of nearly $3,000,000 and a workforce of 100.  Both customers and employees recall the Reston Farm Market with many fond memories, including the fact that the building had no bathroom, but a Don’s John in the back.  However, as written by Tamara Jones in her article entitled, “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie,” in the June 22, 1997 Style Section of the The Washington Post, “There were always a lot of things about the market best left unsaid and discovered by accident.”  As such, all associated with the Reston Farm Market woo the day of the closing, due to the encroaching “growth” of suburban development surrounding the site, and resrtictive demands for downsizing by the Fairfax County Zoning Department. The Reston Farm Market, a haven for freshness, creativity and things from the past, existed and thrived for 21 years in the late 20th century in contradiction to the high rise sprawl and modernization that is Northern Virginia.

the-washington-post-article-june-22-1997

The Fall Season

Perhaps the greatest physical expansion for the Reston Farm Market occurred during the fall when Kern not only sold pumpkins, but commandeered the construction of Fort Pumpkin, a wonderland for both children and adults to not only climb and explore the wonder of hay tunnels with orange pumpkins and other multi-sized fall vegetables, but to learn about Native American culture and pride around the Fort and two towering teepees. “Real” Native American tribes traveled in from different US states and Mexico to demonstrate dances and ceremonies and share stories, an education for all participating. Hayrides, straw people posed throughout the property, a 10 foot high hand-carved grizzly bear, face painting, and “damn good” cider, both sweet and hard, poured into jugs from a huge tank were all part of the autumnal lure to celebrate fall, Halloween, and a part of an era and heritage that is often taken for granted.  Current residents of the area remember watching their children enjoy and celebrate the Native American culture, as well as the tunnels, slides, and “really gigantic pumpkins that must have weighed a ton.”  

The Winter Season

Winter at The Reston Farm Market grew from a site originally selling Christmas trees to a fun-filled chilly wonderland to bring the kids to celebrate the joys of the season of snow.  On weekends, the kids got a chance to chat with Charley Claus, Santa’s cousin from the South Pole, and to share what their wishes for the season were.  Although some employees recall winter as a time of being cold at the farm market, one former employee noted, “I loved Christmas…all the ornaments coming in to be priced, the smell of the wreaths, the fire crackling and our big Christmas dinner at the big table set up in the middle of the store … we looked like something from Dickens.”  Customers loved to come to the market for the open-air wood fires, Christmas carols, greenery, and the hot mulled wine that was served to welcome customers and to warmly enhance their gift ideas.  The market was typically closed for January and February, a time when Kern and some of his employees could travel to various locales to gather ideas and items to rejuvenate for the next season.

The Spring Season

Spring was featured as a grand reopening time for the Reston Farm Market, with balloons and weekend live folk and/or bluegrass music.  And one mustn’t forget the complimentary mint juleps that Kern served on Kentucky Derby Day.  Spring at the market was a time to hear the wind chimes, and to grab a red Radio Flyer to pull throughout the market displays to pick just the right assortment of flowers and herbs for mother and to plant in a home garden.  

The Summer Season

Summer usually was when an eclectic group of employees found themselves sharing with customers how to pick out a good watermelon, cantaloupe, ear of corn, or even fresh trout, all of which were brought to the market directly from the grower, producer, or fisher. Most of the previous day’s produce, especially corn and tomatoes, was often available for half price. What was deemed too ripe then was made available to some customers for free for canning and/or for homeless shelters in the area. Summer was also a time for more live music on the weekends, hot dogs and hamburgers grilling, and peanuts churning out of a huge 1920's Royal Roaster. Prior to the current rage for organic whole foods, the Reston Farm Market stood out as a place where fresh meant fresh and where food was not wasted.

The Reston Farm Market lives on in the minds of those who worked or shopped there, especially when they drive by the corner of Baron Cameron Avenue and Leesburg Pike, where you could get and do something special and unique. The (Original) Reston Farm Market, located as an entryway to the burgeoning suburbs during the later half of the 20th century, will be remembered as a fun and creative place to work and shop because it really was “the best of every season” in more ways than one.