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Herndon considers moving farmers market from Thursdays to the weekend

A pumpkin stall at the Herndon farmers market (courtesy Town of Herndon)

A shake-up might be in the works for the Town of Herndon’s annual farmers market.

The town is exploring the possibility of moving the seasonal event from its usual Thursday morning time slot to Saturday or Sunday, though it’s not clear yet whether the Fairfax County Park Authority — which currently organizes the market — could accommodate the change.

“As a matter of course, the town is always evaluating programs and events, no matter how successful, to see if we might improve upon them and make them and more inclusive,” town spokesperson Anne Curtis told FFXnow.

Launched on May 4, the Herndon farmers market takes place on Lynn Street every Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through Nov. 9. It has 15 vendors, along with master gardeners, and typically draws 500 to 700 attendees per week, “depending on the season and the weather,” according to Curtis.

However, the town council and staff are now considering whether the market could draw even more of a crowd on the weekend. The proposal was partly inspired by a recent survey of the business community that found a desire for more special events that could attract customers.

“The business community has told us weekends, second Saturdays, it’s a larger pool of potential revenue for the town,” Councilmember Cesar del Aguila said at an Oct. 17 work session. “In my humble opinion, we’ve reached the point on a lot of our events of diminishing returns. Doesn’t matter what we do, doesn’t matter how much we put into it, it’s not going to grow…But a second Saturday, a more focused event or series of events, mini festivals, that’s why we’re considering this.”

At an earlier work session on Oct. 3, Town Manager Bill Ashton told the council that the FCPA seemed open to moving its Herndon market to Saturdays, but the agency won’t know for sure until its list of vendors is finalized in February.

According to Ashton, the park authority has scheduled the Herndon market for Thursdays to avoid conflicts with the Reston Farmers Market held on Saturdays at Lake Anne Village Center.

An FCPA spokesperson confirmed that the agency has been working with the Town of Herndon to determine “what may be possible.”

“The Fairfax County Park Authority is definitely committed to the continued success of all 10 of our Farmers Market locations,” the park authority said in a statement. “We welcome ideas and recommendations that can help further that endeavor. Of course, any changes to the program calendar for next year need to be well-planned with the market volunteers, vendors and service providers.”

The town could partner with a different organizer, such as the nonprofit FreshFarm, which operates year-round farmers markets in the Mosaic District, Oakton and at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Reston.

“It makes a better option, but they cannot commit to the weekends until they figure out who’s returning on their current market list,” Ashton said.

Not everyone is sold on the proposed shift.

During last week’s discussion, which focused on whether the Thursday farmers’ market should be left off of the town’s official calendar, Mayor Sheila Olem noted that “several” vendors are busy at the Lake Anne market on Saturdays. She also pointed to some advantages of working with Fairfax County, including the composting services now offered at all 10 of its markets.

Vice Mayor Clark Hedrick said the town has “seen a lot of comments” from people concerned about the farmers’ market getting taken off the calendar without any opportunity for public input.

The council ultimately agreed to leave the market on Thursdays for the 2024 calendar, but there will be an asterisk indicating that the date is “subject to change.” A resolution that will also solidify the holidays listed on the calendar is set to be approved by the council when it meets tonight (Wednesday).

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