BOWIE– For Jim Unger, the market manager of Bowie Farmers Market, business keeps getting better.
While the beginning of farmers market season is traditionally slow, Unger will expect up to 1,500 people seeking out the market on Sundays as the weather gets warmer.
“Right now it’s slow because things are slow-ripening,” he said. “The weather this year has been extra cold. But…as the season goes they’ll be tomatoes and corn and cantaloupe and watermelon and things like that.”
There are more than 15 vendors present each Sunday in the shared parking lot of Bowie High School and Bowie Branch Library, where the market is held. Unger has unfurled his own tent for Unger’s Fruit Farm at the market for the past 20 years.
The Bowie Farmers Market has a customer base that keeps “growing every year because of the diversity of the market,” Unger said. “There’s everything here for people to buy—vegetables, fruit, flowers, baked goods – everything.”
Soon the market will feature sweet cherries, sour cherries, blueberries and peaches. Plums, green beans, cucumbers, squash, sweet corn and watermelon will appear later in the summer, and apples will arrive in the fall, Unger said.
Unger said typically between 500-600 people attend the market per week, but in the middle of summer they will expect between 1,000-1,500 people every Sunday.
Due to a permit the city of Bowie obtained to use the high school parking lot, there will be plenty of parking for the number of expected customers.
Farmers markets are rising in popularity across the nation because there are consumers who are interested in buying fresh products from the farm instead of the grocery store, according to the USDA.
Gary Fleming, a regular at the Bowie Farmers Market, said farmers markets cannot replace grocery stores, but they can help consumers eat locally and seasonally.
“What I like about the farmers market, particularly the ones that grow locally, is that you’re supporting local food and you’re eating it in season, not out of season,” Fleming said.
Fleming has attended the Bowie Farmers Market almost every weekend for the past ten years. His favorite foods to purchase are cookies, but he also buys vegetables.
At the tent for Ginny’s Gourmet Products, Bowie resident Virginia Brown’s tables are topped with homemade jellies, jams, barbeque sauce and salsa.
“I make everything myself,” she said. “I don’t use preservatives. My preservatives are vinegar, sugars. Everything is natural as it can be.”
Brown started out making salsas and then moved onto jams and jellies.
“I’ve been here for 23 years, so one thing just led to another,” she said.
Brown’s fastest selling products are “hot jellies,” which include peach jalapeño and tropical jalapeño. Brown says they are delicious with cream cheese and crackers. The prices for Ginny’s goodies range from $4.00 to $6.00.
Darlene Williams is usually in church on Sunday, but this year she can be found under a tent at the Bowie Farmers Market, seated behind a table filled with homemade desserts.
Williams makes gluten-free and sugar-free desserts to attract customers with different dietary restrictions.
“I am selling pound cakes, cobblers, cookies, and different sweets every week,” Williams said. “I want to be able to serve as much of the community as possible so I found recipes so I could put it out here for them.”
Behind the scenes, city special events coordinator Matt Corley makes sure the farmers market runs smoothly every year.
Corley recruits vendors for the Bowie Farmers Market who come from as far away as Charles County and Carroll County.
“We’re supporting small family farms,” said Corley. “How many of our farms have gone to big commercial farms? We still have in the farmers market a farm that’s run by a family that’s going out there and growing the food for our community.”
Check out these other farmers markets:
Bowie Farmers Market
Where: 15200 Annapolis Road
(Bowie High School parking lot)
When: Sundays from 8 a.m. - noon through Oct. 26
Branch Avenue in Bloom Farmers Market
Where: 3737 Branch Avenue (Iverson Mall Parking Lot)
When: Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. through Nov. 23
Cheverly Community Market
Where: 6401 Forest Road
When: 8 a.m. - noon every other Saturday through Oct. 25
*Holiday Markets: 8 a.m. - 12 p.m., Nov. 22 and Dec. 13
College Park Farmers Market
Where: 5211 Paint Branch Parkway
(Wells-Linson swimming pool parking lot)
When: Saturdays, 7 a.m. – noon through Nov. 22
Downtown College Park Farmers Market
Where: 4500 Knox Road
When: Sundays, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. through Nov. 23
The Farmers Market at Maryland
Where: Front entrance to Cole Field House, University of Maryland
When: Wednesdays through Nov. 19, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Frank & Gail’s Farmers Market
Where: 378 Main Street
When: Thursdays through Oct. 30, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Freedom Farmers Market
Where:10905 Livingston Road, Fort Washington
When: Fridays through Oct. 24, 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Glenn Dale Farmers Market
Where: 5626 Bell Station Road (Marietta Mansion)
When: Saturdays through Nov. 22, 9 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Greenbelt Farmers Market
Where: 101 Center Way (Greenbelt Aquatic & Fitness Center)
When: Sundays through Nov. 23, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. *Holiday Market: Dec. 7
Hollywood Farmers Market
Where: 9803 Rhode Island Avenue, College Park
When: Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. through Nov. 22
Hyattsville Farmers Market
Where: 3505 Hamilton Street
When: Tuesdays through Oct. 28, 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.
MedStar Southern Md. Hospital Center Farmers Market
Where: 7503 Surratts Road, Clinton
When: Wednesdays, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. through Oct. 29
Montpelier Farmers Market
Where: 1720 North Crain Highway, Upper Marlboro
When: Saturdays through Aug. 30, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and
Saturdays, Sept. 6 – Nov. 1, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Route 1 Farmers Market & Bazaar
Where: 4100 Rhode Island Avenue, Brentwood
When: Fridays, 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. through Nov. 1; Saturdays, 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. through Nov. 1
Riverdale Park Farmers Market
Where: Queensbury Road (MARC station parking lot)
When: Thursdays through Nov. 20, 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.
St. Thomas Church Farmers Market/Upper Marlboro
Where: 14300 St. Thomas Church Road, Upper Marlboro
When: Saturdays through Sept. 27, 8 a.m. to noon
Suitland Farmers Market/Silver Hill
Where: Suitland Road & Shadyside Avenue
When: Tuesdays through Nov. 4, 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.
USDA (Beltsville) Farmers Market
Where: 5601 Sunnyside Avenue (Parking Lot B)
When: Thursdays through Oct. 30, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
WSSC Farmers Market
Where: WSSC Headquarters, 14501 Switzer Lane, Laurel
When: Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. and every 3rd Tuesday through Oct. 29