Sales, sadness at season's farewell

Farmers' market crowd turns out for last day until spring

December 24, 2007|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun reporter

Marketgoers lugged bushel boxes of mustard and collard greens. Some stood sniffing squares of oatmeal lavender and avocado-castor oil soaps. Others purchased red and white poinsettias and greenery, last minute touches of holiday decor.

Christmas shoppers and those who make the Baltimore Farmers' Market a Sunday ritual came out in droves yesterday, the last day until May for a market that celebrated its 30th year downtown this season. The damp gray weather didn't dissuade customers from having that last brunch under the Jones Falls Expressway, from taking that final chance to load up on produce for holiday feasts and snag gifts for the names still on their lists. That the temperature was at least 10 degrees warmer than past Sundays in December helped encourage the turnout.

"The weather hurt us the last few weeks, but everybody's come out to celebrate this last day," said Mike Shores, who runs the popular Beef Barons pit beef and sausage sandwich stand. "This is the best last day I've seen in the past couple years."

Stalls displaying kaleidoscopic colors of produce and crafts stood out against the drab backdrop of the day. A lone saxophonist played jazz tunes at the market's edge. The aroma of kettle corn, frying eggs and evergreen scented the breeze.

Alethea McKenzey said she was happy to be able to avoid the mall during the holiday rush as she picked up cheese and tea gift baskets.

Over at the Mount Harmony stand, Cate Conroy examined the homemade herbal soaps.

"I like to smell and feel and touch them," said Conroy, 44, of Mount Vernon. "They're for gifts, and for myself."

Mount Harmony's red and green "g-nome, g-soap" was popular, with its yuletide colors. The soap maker sold out of a cherry truffle chocolate blend that a child bit into last year, mistaking it for fudge.

The hot-cooked brunch foods - omelets, marinated mushroom sandwiches and Thai cuisine - lured many patrons.

The Coleman family of Ellicott City set aside their health-consciousness to splurge on sausage sandwiches. Lena Coleman stocked up on poinsettias, sweet onions, fruit and greens while her husband, Mike, found Colby cheese to complement some wine they planned to serve for Christmas. Their 21-year-old daughter Jessica, meanwhile, remembered being pushed in a stroller around the market as a child.

The final day was tinged with sadness for Sis and George Ganjon, whose family-owned Herman Jackson Farms of Millers has sold vegetables, bedding plants and herbs at the market for the past 30 years. The Ganjons, both 78, regretfully told customers their diabetes might force them to stay home in Carroll County on market days next year.

"It gets harder every day," said Sis Ganjon, in a red apron and fleecy hat. "Maybe we'll try to come back with just herbs and plants."

Terry Schroeder was tearful as she hugged the Ganjons goodbye. Schroeder, 54, of Federal Hill, has worked for Herman Jackson Farms at the market and at the stand they used to run at the Cross Street Market.

"Every Sunday that I worked here, beaucoup people would come up and hug them," Schroeder said of the Ganjons, who gave her pine boughs freshly cut from the farm. "They are some of the nicest people I've ever met."

Veteran customers dropped by all morning, exchanging Christmas wishes with the Ganjons and bidding them farewell.

"We're going to miss them," McKenzey said after buying some greens. "When you do this regularly, it gets emotional. On the last market, you always run into folks you know."

Like so many others, Lakshmi Hejeebu made a special trip in from Randallstown just to see the Ganjons off.

"I hope it's not their last year," said Hejeebu, who has shopped the market for 20 years. "I'm going to miss her."

As a token of their friendship, Hejeebu recently gave Sis Ganjon a brass bowl she bought on a trip home to Hyderabad, India.

"We have wonderful people come here from all walks of life," Ganjon said.

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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