Hundreds of people braved a blazing sun in downtown Towson yesterday in search of black raspberries, Yukon gold potatoes, baguettes and fresh-cut flowers.
The only thing missing was sweet corn. But that should be available next week.
The occasion? The first day of the Towson Farmers' Market, which is in its 22nd year.
The market is a favorite of many downtown office workers, who stop by on their lunch breaks.
"I got this wonderful salad today," said Barbara Raine, who works in the clerk's office of the county Circuit Court.
Her husband, John, a partner in the Towson law firm Barnes and Raine, added: "It's convenient, and you are supporting local produce."
Those sentiments are likely to please Tony Evans, farmers' market coordinator for the state Department of Agriculture.
"They come to buy," Evans said of the Towson market. "They have their shopping lists ready. By quarter after 11, it's wall-to-wall people."
The market, on Allegheny Avenue between Washington Avenue and York Road, includes 20 vendors offering produce, baked goods, plants and flowers.
"I like the blueberries," said 8-year-old Francisco Ferrer of Anneslie, who was wandering through the market yesterday with his brother, Miguel, 11, his sister, Sofia, 6, and his mother, Alison.
One vendor had a basket brimming with strawberries and offered samples to passersby.
"Take one," said David Hochheimer, 43, who operates Black Rock Orchard in Carroll County with his wife, Emily Zaas. "And don't think too hard."
The sweet corn is on the way.
"We'll have corn next Thursday, and it will all be picked that morning," said George Breidenbaugh of Breidenbaugh Farms in Glen Arm. "We get up and wait for the daylight to pick it."
The Towson market -- open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays through late October -- is popular among Maryland farmers. Susan K. DiLonardo, executive director of the Towson Business Association, said there is a three- to five-year waiting list for vendors.
Some vendors make it a family affair. At the Pahl's Farm produce stand, Pam Pahl was helped by three of her four children: Donnah, 14, Jennifer, 11, and Greg, 7.
Many vendors need all the help they can get. On peak days, the market attracts 2,000 shoppers, according to the Towson Business Association. Evans estimated annual sales at $250,000 to $300,000.
"This is a very important part of our business," said Hochheimer, who has been selling raspberries, blueberries and apples at the market for 18 years.
Of the 66 farmers' markets in Maryland, Towson's ranks in the top five, based on the number of vendors and shoppers and the products offered, Evans said.
"If someone wanted to study Maryland farmers' markets," he added, "Towson is one of the five or six I'd have them become familiar with."