Richard’s out to accommodate visitors
MIDDLETOWN, Va. — Visitors to Richard’s Fruit Market in the Shenandoah Valley may find Kevin frolicking with Star or Roy.
They may also see the playfulness of Mabel, Gus and Rose.
Those are some of the animals that call the market home.
Richard’s Fruit Market includes about 150 acres of farmland in Frederick County, Va.
About 60 acres are in a conservation easement to provide long-term protection from development.
Kayla Richard Lawrence is the fifth-generation farmer on this land; her father, Eddie Richard, is the fourth-generation farmer still going strong planting and harvesting a variety of fruits and vegetables.
The farm was established in 1878. The farm market has been operating for 70 years.
“I’m filling my grandmother Mary’s shoes,” said Lawrence. “She passed in 2022. My grandfather Jim and her opened the farmers’ market here in 1953.”
The market includes produce, meats, and other products raised and harvested at the farm.
Apples are one of the key products at Richard’s Fruit Market.
“We grow many types of apples here,” Lawrence said, “including Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, and Pink Lady, among other varieties. People can buy the apples in our market or they can pick their own in the orchard.”
She also noted that they offer pick-your-own opportunities for flowers.
“We grow a little bit of everything when it comes to flowers,” Lawrence said. “We have zinnias, gladiolus, and sunflowers, for example. Flowers are available for picking from July through October.”
In addition to apples and flowers, Richard’s Fruit Market also grows several varieties of peaches as well as tomatoes, eggplants, garlic, squash, and zucchini.
While Lawrence runs the market, she noted that “my father does most of the farm work, though he’s also usually in the market on the weekends.”
The farmers’ market includes not just the produce harvested from the farm, but also includes a variety of cuts of meat from their herd of cattle. About 30 cattle are raised on the farm.
“We have the cattle processed usually between 12 and 15 months,” Lawrence said. “We have standard cuts available in the market, and we’ll do special cuts based on customer requests.”
The farm produces its own hay for the cattle.
Richard’s Fruit Market not only sells its own produce and beef, Lawrence said the family also stocks the market with food products from other area producers as well as arts and crafts made by people in the area.
“What we don’t grow here, we try to buy from local folks in the Winchester area,” she stated.
Selling items in the market is more involved than just setting out the items, determining fair prices, and ringing up sales, Lawrence added.
“Ninety percent of our work in the market is education,” she said. “We ask if a customer has any questions. We try to help them as they select products that meet their needs.”
One of the draws to Richard’s Fruit Market is a small petting zoo. From June through December, visitors are welcomed – free of charge – to check out the animals here.
“Kevin is our miniature donkey,” Lawrence said. “Roy is our miniature pony, while our Tennessee walking horse is Star. She just turned 19 years of age in May of this year. We also have two miniature cows – Mabel and Gus – as well as a baby calf, Rose.”
In addition to the “named” animals, there are also several turkeys in the zoo.
“As with our cattle, we process our turkeys,” Lawrence said. “That’s why we don’t give them names.”
One other — unnamed — animal has also been known to visit Richard’s Fruit Market: “Last year, we had a black bear in our orchard,” Lawrence said. “He tried to get fruit near the tops of some of our peach trees. He tried so hard that he broke one of the trees.”
The wayward bear has not been seen since.