Secret revealed: Locally grown, farm-fresh produce available three seasons in Stanardsville

By Susan Gibbs

Heidi Yoon, owner of Great Valu in Stanardsville, samples a melon at the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction in Dayton

Stanardsville has several “secrets” that aren’t well-known, and one of them is Heidi Yoon’s bi-weekly trips to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction (SVPA) in Dayton.

“The sellers pick the produce the night before the auction, or maybe even that morning,” says Yoon, who, with her husband Sung, owns the Great Valu Market in the Stanardsville Shopping Center, across from the Greene County Primary School.

Founded in 2005 when a group of local producers decided the area needed a place for producers and buyers to come together, the SVPA is located in the heart of Rockland County’s Old Order Mennonite community.

Produce auctions among the Amish and Mennonite communities in other states, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, had already proved successful when the SVPA became the first in Virginia.

Since then it has become one of the state’s premier locations for getting farm fresh produce from field to table as ripe as possible – and it’s largest.

Commercial growers and gardeners who grow within a 100-mile radius of the SVPA and meet the auction’s standards come to sell their fresh produce flowers, bedding plants, trees, shrubs, pumpkins, gourds, fall décor and even compost.

Yoon discovered the SVPA indirectly a couple of years ago when she was driving south on US 29 and found herself behind a truck hauling a load of pumpkins.

“I thought, wow, those are a lot nicer than the pumpkins I’ve been getting,” Yoon smiles. “When the driver pulled off the road, I followed, and asked where he had gotten them. He said the SVPA, and I’ve been going to auction ever since.”

Unlike chain grocery stores, Great Valu is a group of independently owned and operated groceries, so Yoon has more freedom when it comes to buying some things she wants than do managers of some other groceries.

Buyers inspect fresh produce at the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction

So from early spring until late autumn, Yoon is at the SVPA, savoring every moment. In the spring, dependent, as in other seasons, on availability, asparagus, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collards, a variety of lettuces, onions, garden peas, radishes, spinach, greenhouse tomatoes, turnips and potted plants.

She has even sold young fig trees and other exotics at Stanardsville’s Great Valu early in the year.

Come summer, she’s going to market to taste, in addition to some spring produce mentioned above, a variety of beans, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, cantaloupe, Swiss chard, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, leeks, more lettuce varieties, muskmelon, okra, more peas, peppers, potatoes, summer and winter squash, watermelon, and a variety of heirloom tomatoes.

With autumn falling fast upon is, Yoon is stocking her store with huge potted mums from the SVPA, and she has access to mustard, turnips and will soon be filling it with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.

But some summer produce is still available, and she is happy to take bulk requests from customers who are interested in putting food by for the coming winter months.

While the SVPA caters to grocery stores, farm markets and roadside stands, it also auctions off smaller lots for those who may be interested in canning or freezing.

Yoon's Great Valu Market in Stanardsville

“Customers can visit the SVPA’s Web site (http://svproduceauction.com/home.html), tell me what they want, and I can get it by the boxful,” Yoon says.

Editor’s note: Visit Eye on Greene‘s Facebook page for more photos of the auction, and produce.

Posted in: Features

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