Farmers' mart seeks customer harvest Piney Orchard market is in its third season

July 23, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The Piney Orchard Farmers' Market is a tradition in the making -- organizers hope.

In its third season in the parking lot of the Piney Orchard Community Center in Odenton, the market has about six regular farmers and about 100 customers between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday afternoons.

With a development of about 4,000 homes growing up around the market's site, it has potential for success, said Tony Evans, coordinator of farmers' markets for the Maryland Department of Agriculture. But more immediately, it could stand a few more customers, Evans said last week.

"This is very experimental," he said. "I think the jury is still out" on whether it will succeed.

Caroline County farmer Dick Schultz said he drives to the Piney Orchard market, a smaller market than ones he goes to in Cambridge and Severna Park, as a favor to Evans.

"Most of the markets, it takes them a few years to get started," said Schultz, 56, as he and his mother, Agnes, set out tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, squash, straw flowers and other items on tables set up behind their pickup truck last week. "Wednesday and Thursday, that's usually a day [when we] pick our tomatoes and do our field work."

Mark Stevens, a sixth-generation farmer on Arrowhead Farm in Crownsville, is optimistic about the market's future.

"This area is growing pretty quickly," Stevens, 36, said last week as he sat on the back of his truck with a flowered sun umbrella shading him and his produce. "I'm hoping in the next couple of years it will really take off."

But to patrons like Jean and Allen Tate, the market already is a hit. The Tates, both 68 and semi-retired, walk almost every week from their Piney Orchard condominium a block away to buy whatever fruits or vegetables are in season.

"As the seasons change, we eat something different," said Jean Tate, a nurse massage therapist. "I haven't walked to a market ever, not since I was a little kid, I guess. There's nothing quite like fresh produce."

Last Wednesday, the Tates each carried away bags full of tomatoes, potatoes and corn.

Most customers, like Four Seasons resident Linda McGuire, arrived in cars.

"It is real nice to have it close by," said McGuire, 50, a media assistant in Anne Arundel County schools. "I know you pay a little bit more, but it's worth it." Her purchase of six ears of corn and four tomatoes cost $4.80.

Mary Lou Vitrano, director of the Piney Orchard Community Center, sees the market as more than a convenience. "It's the getting back to the good stuff, the freshness, the wholesome image the produce has when it's coming from the field to the consumer," Vitrano said. "There's a sense of community in these markets. People meet others and get to know neighbors."

Pub Date: 7/23/96

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