ABINGDON, Va. — A frosty morning last Saturday didn’t discourage a brisk turnout at the opening day of the holiday market at the Abingdon Farmers Market.

Among a plethora of things, customers came to shop for handmade wreaths, woodworking items and jewelry, in addition to fall produce, such as salad greens, squash, potatoes and mushrooms.

The holiday market is open 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday through Dec. 21.

According to David McLeish, manager of the market, as many as 40 holiday vendors will sell their wares each Saturday.

“This is the first day of the holiday market, and we’re staying really busy.”

McLeish said many customers have started shopping for Christmas gifts.

“There’s nothing better than handmade local items for gifts,” said the manager. “Buying from market vendors helps support local farmers, artisans and bakers. Plus, it helps the economy. Approximately 68% of what is spent with the local vendors stays locally.”

The following businesses represent only a few of the vendors who will participate in the holiday market each week.

John Graham, of Graham’s Woodworks in Marion, Virginia, is selling a variety of unique wooden items, such as wooden clocks, candle boxes, vases and salt and pepper shakers — and even his wooden ink pens, which have been making news in his church. Graham said his pastor, who recently traveled to Washington, D.C., had the opportunity to present one of his pens to Vice President Mike Pence.

One vendor is combining her talents in art with her culinary creations. Jane Wilson, of Blue Ridge Confections, makes and decorates homemade shortbread cookies. She coats the cookies with a sugar and honey glaze for a smooth surface and paints the cookies with natural ingredients, such as berry juice concentrate, herbs and spices.

“I can sell a watercolor painting every now and then, but I always can sell the cookies that I paint,” said the culinary artist.

Deni Peterson, who owns and operates Blue Door Garden in Abingdon, sells floral wreaths in a variety of sizes, colors and prices. The floral dried wreaths can be used for table centerpieces, wall enhancement and door decor.

Peterson said her customers also love her garlic braids, each including a woven hanger and eight to 10 garlic bulbs with a cascade of dried flowers for a splash of color.

Barbara Kling and her daughter, Jennifer Kling, sell a variety of cuts of lamb and the colorful yarns made from their sheep’s wool.

They make and sell “For the Birds,” a round, crocheted ball containing wool that is hung in trees for birds to use for nest-building. Barbara also brings dryer balls and roving, a long narrow bundle of fiber used to spin woolen yarn.

Handcrafted jewelry is another big seller at the market.

Amy Tuell, of Sisters 3 Studio, comes to the holiday market to sell her handcrafted jewelry, some of which is made from lightweight polymer clay. She also features resin alcohol ink coasters and resin cutting boards, crafted by her husband, Woody Tuell.

Dave Cheek of Lebanon is attracting customers to his booth who want to buy lean beef. Cheek said their grass-fed, tender beef is from Piedmontese cattle, one of the oldest breeds in the world. “It’s beef that the Roman emperors used to eat,” said the owner of River Mountain Farms.

He said the breed has a gene that makes it unique for its tender, flavorful beef.

“We take custom orders. We like to talk to people who want to learn how to cook different cuts. Everyone can cook a rib eye or a New York strip, but some customers want something different,” he said.

“A customer this morning wanted a beef tongue, and another guy stood in line to buy an oxtail. An oxtail is the tail of a cow. It’s got a lot of marrow in it and how it’s cooked will bring out the flavor.”

For more information on the Abingdon Farmers Market, visit www.abingdonfarmersmarket.com.

The market participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which allows qualified customers to double up on what they can buy at the market.

Virginia Fresh Match nutrition incentives double the value of SNAP spent at the market and help people bring home more healthy fruits and vegetables.

For example, customers who spend $10 at the market using their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards can get another $10 free to buy more locally grown fruits and vegetables.

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Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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