Fresh produce from the farms

May 20, 1993

This is the season of weekend farmers' markets throughou the Baltimore metropolitan region. Although agriculture continues to shrink in Maryland, farmers' markets have been staging a comeback in recent years. People may have less contact with land than ever but they still want to smell the freshness of the produce they buy.

We have always liked the occasional roadside vegetable stand we still spot occasionally. The more rickety and weather-beaten it is, the better. Looks like old pictures.

In the bygone days, when suburbanization had not yet started, local farmers produced most of the food the Baltimore metropolitan area consumed. Anne Arundel County was a particularly thriving farming area. The soft, sandy soils of the North County were famous for flavorful strawberries, juicy cantaloupes and cucumbers.

Anne Arundel County, of course, was close to the Baltimore market by road or by boat. The city, in turn, had an ample supply of mostly Polish immigrant labor which was recruited in larger numbers each season to work on county truck farms.

Anne Arundel County truck farms are still vividly remembered by older people throughout the region. "Annarrannall cantalooopes" was a call that instantly brought eager customers to street "Arabs" produce wagons in Baltimore City. Today, most of those colorful produce vendors are gone. So is much commercially grown Arundel produce. However fertile the sandy soil, townhouses and condominiums, after all, don't produce fruit.

The Anne Arundel County Historical Society is doing important work to document the history of local truck farming. The group's president, Will Mumford, has just completed a book about that form of agriculture.

This is most fitting. The society, after all, has acquired three original produce farm buildings -- a wooden summer kitchen, tool shed and corn house -- which it hopes to restore soon at its Benson-Hammond House headquarters in Linthicum.

"Our goal is to interpret not only this site but truck farming in general in Anne Arundel County," says the society's executive ,, director, Beth Nowell.

Last year, the society sponsored a strawberry festival to commemorate truck farming traditions. The event was so successful it will be repeated June 12 at the Benson-Hammond House, at the intersection of Aviation Boulevard and Andover Road. It is a great way to support the society's work and get a taste of the county's past.

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