Horticulturists display giant basil plants and other potted herbs in the parking lot behind Mount Airy's old train station every Wednesday afternoon. Other local farmers offer a smattering of greenhouse-grown tomatoes, peas, green beans and beets. Beekeepers peddling wildflower honey and an egg lady also set up shop there.
The recently resurrected Mount Airy Farmers' Market is part of the town's efforts to encourage more residents to shop and eat downtown.
"The old historic Main Street is the heart of the town," said Ellie Bonde, who co-owns Blossom & Basket Boutique, which faces the new market site. "The health of the downtown reflects the health of the community."
The Mount Airy market, which kicked off in mid-May, runs through September. It's the newest of Carroll County's five farmers' markets.
The last one in Mount Airy shut down more than five years ago because of a lack of customer interest and insufficient variety in the produce offered, said Marjorie Satterlee, a vendor from Pheasant Hill Farm on the Carroll County side of town.
Town officials say the market is another positive sign of change downtown, and restaurants and boutiques continue to open and fill vacancies.
"It's part of the whole community revitalization effort," said Kelly Ziad, Mount Airy's town planner and Main Street manager. "It's part of the nationwide movement to buy local, shop local."
Eight vendors had tables set up in the parking lot that faces Bonde's flower shop on a recent Wednesday afternoon. More than half of the tables offered produce that was grown on local farms, said Joan W. Schulz, who runs the Farmers' Market Nutrition Program for the state Department of Agriculture.
Schulz, who was there to tour the new market, determined that it qualified for listing on the Department of Agriculture's Web site.
Other vendors offered home-baked goods and Tim Richards, a junior at Haverford College, sat at a table to promote an environmental group that he started called Citizens for a Green Mount Airy.
Terri Rowe of New Market sold bite-size shortbread cookies with white chocolate icing, and crab cookies, slightly salty with a touch of Old Bay.
"It's a great opportunity," Rowe, who calls her business Aunt B's Angel Cookies, said of the market. "Mount Airy has really put a lot of effort into revitalizing the city."
For a start-up market, Schulz said the Mount Airy venue isn't small. Customers frequently cycle in and out of the market's parking lot.
Mount Airy Councilwoman Wendi Peters and her son, Zach, 13, were among the market's shoppers on a recent afternoon. Zach sampled Rowe's cookies. Peters gravitated toward the vegetables and herbs.
"This is the perfect spot so it can enlarge," Peters said of the parking lot. "People can come and safely walk around with children."
While vendors at most farmers' markets have to set up tents to protect their goods from the sun, the Mount Airy location has trees that provide natural shade. That makes things easier for the farmers coming in to set up tables each week, Schulz said.
Though the market is growing, it is still too small for farms such as South Mountain Creamery in Middletown to be interested in selling its milk there. The same goes for meat sellers.
"They won't come until we get bigger," said Bonde, who chairs the promotions committee for the Mount Airy Main Street Association, or MAMSA. "We've got to prove ourselves."
The honey, beeswax candles and balms from The Bee Folks table were popular with kids and adults. Lori Titus said she keeps 12 hives in her apiary - in Howard County near Mount Airy - and also sells honey from around the world. She gives samples of honey with tastes that range from caramel to marshmallow.
Mount Airy resident Harry Johnson stopped at The Bee Folks table to purchase some wildflower honey. Johnson said he and his wife consume the honey to fight their pollen allergies.
Johnson, 56, who grew up in Mount Airy when the train station was active, said downtown has changed lately for the better.
Ziad said special events are planned at the market throughout the summer to keep residents coming to Main Street.
Master gardener Tina Swanson will be there the last Wednesday of each month to share tips on caring for flowers and other plants.
Starting Wednesday this week, , local chefs will give cooking demonstrations at the market. Titus will show how to cook with honey this week. Judy Turner of Concetta's Italian Grocer will present cooking with herbs July 18, and on July 25, Bruce Laurienzo of Laurienzo Brick Oven Caf? will demonstrate grilling with summer vegetables.
Mount Airy Mayor Frank M. Johnson said the new market has been successful. He hopes it might expand to more than one afternoon a week.
"It's a fledgling effort that seems to bring in a lot of traffic," Johnson said. "It will build up over time."
The Mount Airy Farmers' Market is held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays at 3 N. Main St. Information: Kelly Ziad, 301-829- 1424.