What started as one cart of fruits and vegetables for sale on the side of Route 15 just north of Leesburg in the 1970s has expanded to one of the largest onsite produce markets in Loudoun. People come from all over the region just for this produce and the quality is so well known, it’s even sold in Wegmans.
The man behind the market is Leesburg resident John Whitmore. Known locally as “Farmer John,” Whitmore has farmed all his life. The Whitmore family farm has been around since 1845 and spans 700 acres as the 4th and 5th generation to farm the land. Not only does Whitmore sell his produce in his market, he also sells to local restaurants like Lightfoot and in powerhouse grocery chain, Wegmans.
When Wegmans built its first store in the region, a number of their managers shopped at the Farmer John Market, Whitmore said. From there, their partnership was born. “They asked me to be part of their business and I told them I wasn’t a wholesaler, I’m a retailer,” Whitmore said. “They said that wasn’t a problem.”
“My motto has always been ‘Cadillac service and Cadillac prices,'” Whitmore said. “I always had the highest quality stuff, very unusual stuff so I get a lot of people out of Reston who would come here to shop, Mount Vernon, Arlington, Alexandria, all over Washington (D.C) to come here and shop just because the freshness.”
Whitmore said he’s also had customers come as far as Pennsylvania and Ohio to buy his fruits and vegetables. Northern Virginia residents can find Whitmore’s produce at the Leesburg, Sterling, Fairfax and Manasass Wegmans. His produce is marked with a sign that reads “Farmer John.”
“We have quite a flock of people coming,” Whitmore said. “I’ve sent sweet corn out to Alaska and received salmon back.”
Whitmore sells a variety of fruits and vegetables including squash, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, corn, onions, cantaloupes, pumpkins, watermelons, blackberries, raspberries, table grapes, and peaches. He also supplements his fruits and vegetables with seasonal favorites like pineapples and bananas as well as 20 varieties of apples, jams and jellies, honey, and homemade pies. Customers can find which produce Whitmore grows himself on the market’s website and Facebook page.
Whitmore and his wife Teresa work with a staff of around 10 people to manage the farm, with some extra help from friends and family on market and heavy traffic days. One family has worked at the farm for over 15 years. The market is open 7 days a week but on weekends, it is inundated with customers pulling in from Rt. 15. “We go through about 400 boxes of tomatoes a day,” Whitmore said.
As weekend shoppers go through the carts, picking their produce, farm employees will drive up with freshly picked fruits and vegetables throughout the day. It’s this freshness, along with the customer service, that keeps people like Leesburg resident Carla Wolfner coming back for more.
“The produce is amazing. It’s so fresh, it’s always got great flavoring and it’s beyond organic. I just think it’s absolutely free of the pesticides, completely organic, Wolfner said. “When I moved down here, I saw the place, I stopped in and Farmer John was so nice. My parents came to visit, my parents got to know Farmer John, so I always stop because, obviously great food, and he is so wonderful. I never like to stop anywhere else, because it’s better.”
The market is open daily to the public from mid-June through Thanksgiving.