When the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce named Dan Hine’s marketing company EatLoco.org its 2018 “Destination Business of the Year,” Dan immortalized the farmers of the local markets he supports with a poem. (See bit.ly/EatLocoPoem.)
At heart, it pleads with his fellow residents to consider the long-term health and community benefits of keeping local farmers in business as they plan their weekly grocery shopping. If enough consumers patronize farmers markets, they give farmers the incentive they need to sustain their way of life rather than bowing to pressure from developers to cash in on the real estate value of their farmland.
Already, farmers are overworked and exhausted, Dan explains. If they have to spend just one day a week selling their proteins and produce to their neighbors, then they can manage to use the other six raising the food we eat.
“We fight to keep them relevant,” he says. “If I can make our markets successful enough that they can slow their lives down just a little and worry less, I feel like I’ve done my job.”
By all accounts, he's succeeding. From Jan. 1 to the end of summer, the two EatLoco.org markets at One Loudoun and Brambleton drove nearly $1.2 million in sales.
Dan also caters to the farmers' other critically important clients: the chefs, restauranteurs and caterers who have coalesced to make Loudoun a destination for discriminating diners who take the freshness and natural processing of their food choices seriously.
One such chef is Tony Breda. Tony runs both a catering business and the Cutting Board of Waterford which provides a small prix fixe meal for about 10 people.
For that meal, “everything comes from the local farmers market. We source everything from whatever is available and then make our menu," Tony says. "I don’t know what’s going to be there. I can go thinking I’m going to get scallops, or that I’m going to get soft shell crabs in season, but maybe that vendor is not there that day, so then I have to go get something else, like a pork butt.”
Certain vegetables and fruits always are available, like heirloom tomatoes grown right in Waterford, but there’s enough variety to make every meal a creative endeavor.
“Using whatever’s local and fresh makes a huge difference,” Tony says. “There’s a perception—entirely accurate in my opinion—that, if it’s local, you’re eliminating the middleman. There’s no storage or long transport—any of the things that wear the flavors down and destroy the integrity and tenderness. When we can eliminate shipping something across the country and find something local, it is, every time, going to be better.”