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Farmers Markets: Growing Community Centerpieces

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Farmers markets have grown in recent years to become community centerpieces — and community centerpieces and a part of the American fabric. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, such markets provide a venue where one may find local, farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, eggs, baked goods and more.

In addition, the local farmers market provides a gathering place for the community, where neighbor meets neighbor, where the many benefits of having a farmers market nearby are felt throughout the community.

What makes a farmers market a community centerpiece? That differs from one community to another, depending on the needs of the local community and the relationships grown between the community and its local farms.

Community Centerpieces

A wonderful example of how the community comes together for the greater good is the new Glenwood Community Farmers Market (GCFM), a community centerpiece that takes place on Saturdays starting on May 9 and will run every Saturday through Oct. 31, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Western Howard County Community Complex.

During the past several months, there has been a community-based, grassroots group effort to start a new farmers market in partnership with a small group of close-knit farmers, including Greg and Katie Wheeler of the Wheeler Farm, a multigenerational, family-owned produce farm in Sykesville.

In addition to the Wheeler Farm, there’s a host of local growers and producers, including Breezy Willow Farm, Greenway Farms and Lewis’ Orchards, which will open a few weeks later than the other growers, when the strawberries ripen, and will have freshly-picked berries, then seasonal fruit, throughout the rest of the market season.

According to Heidi Gaasch, the GCFM community representative, the market is not a producer-only market, which means that its vendors can sell others’ locally grown or produced products. The market will have a community table, at which different nonprofits and community groups, such as local charities, educational programs or teams, will have the opportunity to promote themselves on a rotating basis.

The Anne Arundel Farmers Market (AAFM), located at Riva Road and Harry S. Truman Parkway, in Annapolis, now in its 35th year, has stood the test of time and changed to meet the needs of the community it serves. This year, the Westfield market merged into this producer-only market, now a weekend market that opened in early April on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 20; it also will be open on Tuesdays, May 26 through Sept. 29, with varying hours.

“The market growers and producers vary each market day, which enables our community to find a wide variety of farm-fresh products, from garden plants, fruit, vegetables, baked goods to coffee and prepared foods using produce and locally produced meats from the market plus local, hand-made jewelry and artisan products,” said Brenda Conti, the AAFM market manager. “The market also allows for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs to arrange share pick-ups on Thursdays.”

Around Howard

Recently, two of the farmers markets serving the Ellicott City community were recognized by Howard Magazine’s readers as 2014 Howard County’s Best: the Saturday Ellicott City Old Town Market and the Wednesday Howard County Farmers Market, located at the Howard County Library System’s (HCLS) Miller Branch. These markets were well-placed in the communities within and surrounding Ellicott City’s historic and suburban districts.

Now in its second year, the Ellicott City Old Town Market’s (ECOTM) location, by The Wine Bin, gives patrons an opportunity to buy seasonal, producer-only, locally grown/produced items; listen to live, local music in a festive atmosphere; and transcend Main Street to the market’s “Backyard Brunch” on the Courtyards of Tonge Row, located just behind the visitors center.

“We are extremely pleased to host up to 15 farmers and producers who offer a wonderful assortment of locally produced, farm-fresh premium foods including freshly made pickles, salsas, hummus and baked goods, prepared food and plants,” said R.J. Caulder, of Breezy Willow Farm and the ECOTM market master. Favorites such as Orchard Breeze Farm, Baugher’s Orchard and Brooks Brand Salsas are among this year’s extensive vendor list.

Steeped with charm, historic Ellicott City is a natural setting for the Saturday morning farmers market, starting its second season on May 9 and running every Saturday through October, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.

Read All About It

The HCLS’s Miller Branch provides an excellent environment for the Wednesday farmers market run by the Howard County Global Farmers’ Markets. The market is proud to feature local producers such as TLV Tree Farm and Love Dove Farms, Lewis’ Orchards, Penn Farm, Stone House Bakery, The Breadery, Great Harvest Bread Co. and several others.

“The farmers market adds so much to our community,” said the library’s branch manager, Susan Stonesifer. “Our multicultural and multigenerational community frequents the market; it presents an opportunity for them to meet the growers and producers. It’s when I am able to go out, proudly wearing my name tag, to buy healthy, locally grown produce, baked goods and prepared foods every Wednesday, 2–6 p.m., and enjoy talking with our community.”

“The Wednesday market loves the sense of community spirit surrounding the library,” said Jen Poston of TLV Tree Farm. “To give back to the community that supports us, we provide the library’s summer reading program with gift cards to use as rewards. Having the ability to read and access to an education is very important to us, to everyone.”

The Wednesday market, now entering its fourth year at the library, starts May 6 and runs through Nov. 11.

New Markets

Sunday mornings, as members of Oakland Mills Interfaith Center are attending at The Meeting House and family dinners are planned throughout the community, the long established Oakland Mills Village Center farmers market is set up to offer its customers an array of fruits and vegetables, meats and baked goods produced by its local farmers and producers.

This year, the market starts on May 10 and goes through Nov. 22. Other markets coordinated by the HCGFM include the Friday afternoon market at Howard County General Hospital, May 8–Oct. 30 and the newest market, within Maple Lawn’s retail area, every Saturday morning, May 9–Oct. 31.

The East Columbia Farmers Market on Thursday afternoons may be one of the smallest markets within Howard County, but it’s also one of oldest, continuing to serve Columbia’s Owen Brown community at Howard County Library’s East Columbia Branch.

“The market’s farmers and producers will have a variety of local fruits, vegetables, meats, jams, jellies, baked goods, plants and more,” said the ECFM market master, Oliver Keckler of Orchard Country Produce Farm. “We enjoy seeing the community every Thursday during the season at the market, where everyone comes together in the parking lot between the library and the neighboring sports fields. It gives them a chance to find something healthy from our market that is local.” In addition to the bountiful selection brought by Orchard Country Produce, the community will be able buy local and eat fresh from Tomatoes Etc. Produce Farm, Unger’s Fruit Farm, Renata’s Tasty Bites and others. The Thursday market opens May 7 and runs through Nov. 19, 2–6 p.m.

In addition to other established summertime farmers markets, namely the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Piney Orchard and Severna Park markets within Anne Arundel County, the county has added two new farmers markets to serve the newly developed Arundel Preserve and Greenstreet Gardens communities that will operate from early June to early September.

Alice Settle-Raskin is the owner/consultant of Alice’s AgriMaryland, which promotes and marketing Maryland’s agribusiness community. Learn more at www.Alices-AgriMaryland.com.