Walter Bedford, 72, first became interested in farming more than 15 years ago when he planted flowers on a small patch of land in Randallstown.
From the roots of that hobby a family business grew -- one that specializes in home-grown string beans, onions, sweet potatoes, peppers and other vegetables that Bedford grows on his 20-acre Baltimore County farm.
Bedford was one of about 40 farmers gathered under the Jones Falls Expressway downtown yesterday morning at Baltimore's Farmers' Market.
The market, a tradition for 13 years, will operate every Sunday this year through Dec. 22.
Its official opening day was June 23, but heavy rain kept customers away. Under hot, sunny skies they turned out by the hundreds yesterday to pick over tables laden with vegetables, cheeses, breads, jams, cider, eggs, fruit, hams, sausages and other products. Many farmers had extra truckloads of produce ready to meet the demand.
"Today was an extremely good day," said Reginald Bedford, 42, who helps his father run the family farm. He described the operation as a small, old-fashioned business that takes time and care to provide consumers with quality products.
"Consequently, you're going to get a better product," he said. "It's trucked straight from the farm to the market here."
But there are drawbacks to small farms, the younger Bedford added, noting that lack of rain can ruin crops.
"We use an old tractor, planters and plow," he said. "We can't afford irrigation."
L Carla Tyson-Owens, 31, shops the farmers' market every year.
"They have a lot of odd things here that you wouldn't find at Safeway," she said. "And sometimes the prices are a little better."
Jude Redfearn, 61, said he will go to the farmers' market every Sunday until it closes to take advantage of the low prices and the wide selection.
"If I went to the supermarket, I'd pay five times as much for what I have here," Redfearn said, pointing to a bag of yellow squash. "Most of the time I buy stuff to put in my freezer, so when winter comes I won't have to worry about going to the supermarkets."
There was general agreement that sellers and buyers benefit from the market.
"It's good for the farmer because we get better prices for our goods here," said Betty DeGraw, 45, who owns a 25-acre farm on the Eastern Shore.
She said some farmers have to sell large quantities of their crops for lower prices when dealing with large distributors.
While DeGraw was selling her squash, cucumbers, string beans, cantaloupes and watermelons in Baltimore, her husband, Terry, was preparing the farm land back home for broccoli to be planted in the fall.
She said many people don't appreciate the work farmers put into their crops.
On a typical workday, DeGraw said, she and her husband get up at 5 a.m., water greenhouse plants for three hours, then they may plow the fields, plant new crops and cultivate crops already growing.
"Some things have been growing since April and we're just actually seeing the result of them now," DeGraw said.
By 11 a.m. DeGraw's table was reduced to a few baskets of cucumbers and squash. Business was good, she said.