Frederick farmers market season on the horizon

Apr. 8—Plump tomatoes, juicy peaches and fresh greens growing on farms across Frederick County will soon find themselves at the farmers market.

More than a dozen local farmers markets are set to open soon — some as early as this month. Vendors say they provide a place for customers to buy directly from the people whose hands grew their food, and ask questions about the product.

Frederick Farmers Market at 1215 W. Patrick St. kicks off April 16 with a small Easter market. It will open in full swing April 30, according to Danny Rohrer, president of the market.

Of their roughly 14 vendors, Rohrer said no one travels more than 30 miles to the market. Some crops are harvested the same day they’re sold.

“You can’t get any fresher than that,” Rohrer said.

Rohrer is a vendor himself. He sells meat and eggs that come from his farm in Boonsboro.

“Once people have bought from you at the market, you pretty well have a customer for life,” he said.

Vendors will offer dairy products, baked goods, fruits, vegetables, handcrafted jewelry and more.

“The grower’s proud of their product,” Rohrer said. “The fact that you can see the customer enjoys it helps.”

Among the Frederick Farmers Market vendors is Scenic View Orchards. Part owner Richard Calimer said they started going to farmers markets in 1991.

“They’re the majority of our business,” said Brandon Masser, part owner and Calimer’s nephew.

He usually tackles the markets in Montgomery County, while his uncle focuses on Frederick County.

Masser chatted about the upcoming season Thursday as he stood inside a greenhouse at his family’s farm. Employees clipped young tomato plants to string hanging from the ceiling.

Masser is the seventh generation in his family to operate the orchard. They farm about 300 acres and offer up to 50 different products at farmers markets, he said.

What they bring to the market depends on what’s in season. Spinach is ready now, Masser said, with asparagus and strawberries close behind.

At the markets, masser appreciates seeing children get excited about fruits and vegetables they might not normally eat.

“You’re supporting local farmers … but you’re also supporting your own health,” he said.

Some farmers markets partner with government assistance programs to make it easier for people in need to get fresh, local food.

Field Fresh Farmers Market, at the Frederick Fairgrounds, recently got approval to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits as payment, market co-owner Gwen Whitmore said.

Also known as SNAP, the federal program “provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency,” according to the USDA’s website.

Whitmore said Field Fresh Farmers Market through the Maryland Market Money program can match SNAP benefits up to a certain amount. Frederick Farmers Market also participates in the Maryland Market Money program and accepts SNAP, according to Rohrer.

Visitors to the Field Fresh Farmers Market this season can expect about 24 vendors, Whitmore said. Apples, meat, eggs, fruit juice, mushrooms, baked goods, spirits and more will be offered. Food trucks will rotate throughout the season. The market is set to open April 30.

Whitmore said farmers markets are a great place for customers to ask the vendors how their food is.

“They get to meet actually the producer of whatever they’re buying,” she said.

The exchange is fun for people on both sides.

“We love being able to talk to our customers,” Whitmore said. “It’s a win-win.”

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller

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