|Times-Mirror Photo/Jonathan Taylor
David Taylor, brother of Endless Summer Harvest owner Mary Ellen Taylor, talks to visitors of the Loudoun Grown Expo in Purcellville Feb. 16. Their farm specializes in hydroponic farming, allowing them to grow up to 15 varieties of lettuce and other quality produce all year long.|
With the consumption of local produce and farm-to-fork philosophies growing by the day, locovores flocked to the Loudoun Grown Expo Feb. 16 in Purcellville for a taste of what Loudoun has to offer.
According to Mayor Bob Lazaro, people from all over the Washington, D.C. area made the trek for the third annual Expo at the historic Bush Tabernacle at Fireman's Field. Many of those were proponents of the locally grown foods popularity or locovores.
“There were people from Brambleton, Ashburn, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Herndon who I had a chance to meet. I went out and spoke to the merchants after the event and these folks went out shopping afterward and had lunch somewhere,” Lazaro said. “It truly introduces those folks in places not in western Loudoun to our rural entrepreneurs like the wineries, the CSAs, the bakeries, you know those folks who don't necessarily have business in town, but are important to its economic well-being in the long run.”
While Loudoun's wine craze seems to dominate local talk, farms and other companies are often not as popular.
Kellie Boles, Loudoun County's agricultural development officer, noted events like the Loudoun Grown Expo offer all rural businesses the opportunity to receive their due praise.
“Special events like the Loudoun Grown Expo result in a short term increase of 25 percent in sales to the rural economy, including farmers markets, roadside stands and wineries,” Boles said.
The event has shown substantial growth in its existing three years. According to the Town of Purcellville, the event's organizer, last year approximately 2,000 visitors attended. This year more than 3,000 came out to taste some of the “fruits” of Loudoun.
A total of 36 vendors ranging from wineries to farms and CSAs offered their products to attendees including Catoctin Creek Distillery, Corcoran Brewing, Great Country Farms, Notaviva Vineyards, Fabbioli Cellars and more.
Scott Harris, owner of Catoctin Creek Distillery, has been participating in the event since its existence.
“It has gotten progressively bigger each year we have done it and for us there is two main benefits to being there,” Harris said. “One is it is a great venue to meet lots of local people in the community and tell them about our business as well as do tastings. Two, it is a nice way to say thanks to the Town for helping us get our business off the ground.
“This year we were able to sell tasting samples and sell merchandise, which added a full days worth of revenue to a normal Saturday. It was like having a second store open for us,” Harris said.
Lazaro noted Catoctin Creek wasn't the only vendor who benefited from the event.
“The feedback I received from the vendors was positive. They met a lot of people,” Lazaro said. “You just don't measure success by sales. But you need to measure it on awareness. I even met some people from town who said, 'I didn't know that was there', or 'I didn't know that winery was there.' Crooked Run Orchard from Purcellville was there and they were very busy as was Above Ground Winery.”
Lazaro noted that town merchants really get an opportunity to showcase their products at a large event like the Expo.
“Well you know when you talk to the merchants they will tell you they saw more business during the event,” he said. “Last year we had an event in the downtown, the Purcellville Wine and Food Festival, and every one of the merchants told me they had their best day ever.
“When you do events like this and introduce folks to the town and they visit with our merchants either downtown, midtown or at the Purcellville Gateway it is a positive for our community,” Lazaro said. “I like to say if Loudoun is wine country then we are the capital because we are right in the middle of it and you have to take advantage of that.”