Sunday, March 09, 2014 4:30 AM
Published on: Thursday, May 09, 2013
By Brian Compere
ROCKVILLE – One of the city’s two farmer’s markets will open for the season on Saturday with nearly 20 vendors offering locally-grown produce, cheese, meats, baked goods, flowers and other items.
The market will open at 9 a.m. and be held until 1 p.m. every Saturday until its last day of the season on November 23. It’s located in the parking lot at the corner of Route 28 and Monroe Street.
“Generally when you go there, everybody just seems like they’re in a great mood; it’s a pretty fun place to be, actually,” said Marylou Berg, a communication manager for the City of Rockville who said she has been to the market. “Obviously it builds community, and it’s pretty exciting to be able to take advantage of all the fresh fruits and vegetables that are just right around us here in Maryland.”
Berg, who referred to the market as a piece of the community, said the produce is picked the day before and at the correct ripeness so that it’s more flavorful than store-bought produce.
The market has experienced increasing success over the past few years: Berg said that through the seven-month-long season in 2012, the market served 52,000 customers, up from 48,000 in 2011 and 44,000 in 2010.
Dave Dowling of Farmhouse Flowers & Plants, one of the market’s vendors, said it’s great for consumers that farmer’s markets are expanding so much, although he cautioned that expansion can’t go beyond the limited number of farms in the area. The impact of the market today is strong, however: He said about 85 percent of his sales come from the market.
“The Rockville market is a really important part of our business. If we didn’t have it, we’d lose a big chunk of our income,” he said.
Karl Shlagel of Shlagel Farms, one of the market’s vendors, said he has been a part of the market for a long time, which has allowed him to notice trends of the market over time.
“We’ve seen Rockville and the city of Rockville and Montgomery County surrounding it diversify and change over the past two decades and we see a real great mix of what the community has to offer, as well as we’re able to offer the community something that they didn’t have for a long time and as such, they’ve supported us with it.”
Dowling added he has a lot of regular customers who get to be sort of extended family for one day a week. Berg also said the personable nature of the market is valuable in terms of the shopping experience.
“The market also facilitates personal connections between the shoppers and local farmers and growers,” she said. “So you can ask them ‘what’s the best type of apple to use for apple pie?’ or, ‘should I plant my herbs in a sunny or shady area?’”
Eat Fresh Maryland allows low-income county residents to participate more easily in farmer’s markets.