"Nice to see you again," Stephanie Fleming, the owner of Hillside Nursery in Mount Airy, said to customer Stephanie Fontaine of Glenelg. Another vendor, Karen Sowers of the South Mountain Creamery, remembered a customer's regular order. "Two chocolate milks and one 2 percent?" she asked by way of greeting.
It has been a long winter, but the farmers' market outside the Glenwood Branch Library in Cooksville is finally back.
In the still-chilly early days of the farmers' market season, customers can buy straight-from-the-farm asparagus, cilantro and rosemary from Triadelphia Lake View Farm; milk, cheese and yogurt from the South Mountain Creamy; breads and muffins from the Breadery; and plants from the Hillside Nursery. Later, there will be more vendors and more produce, including always-popular corn and tomatoes.
Also available, but not for sale, are the intangibles that make shopping at a farmers' market so different from perusing the shelves of a chain supermarket: words of advice, friendly greetings, remembered orders.
Even hugs. Fontaine, who said she has shopped at Fleming's Hillside Nursery since it became part of the Glenwood farmers' market about three years ago, couldn't resist giving Fleming a squeeze as she looked over the pots of plants arrayed beside her truck in the library's parking lot. "You have such pretty things," Fontaine gushed.
"Every year we come to get the plants for our front porch," said Fontaine, who purchased begonias. "She's just wonderful, and the plants are great. They're healthy, they last longer and they don't get shriveled up."
Only four or five vendors were in the library parking lot Saturday, the first day of the farmers' market season. The site was not crowded, but business was steady.
"We're big supporters," said Phyllis West of Glenelg, who was buying tomato plants from Linda and Jim Brown of Triadelphia Lake View Farm. Her husband, Bill, said the family visits the farmers' market a couple of times a month. "About June, it really gets going," he said.
Megan Lanasa, whose father owns the Breadery, a bake shop on Route 40 in Ellicott City, was busily selling whole wheat rolls, orange-cranberry-pecan bread, focaccia and other baked goods. "We didn't know what to expect, because it's the first day," she said, but she was pleased with the continuous flow of buyers.
Customers included Chris and Angie Paris of Sandy Spring and their daughter, Rachel. "This is my favorite library and my favorite farmers' market," said Angie, who purchased blueberry-peach bread and focaccia from the Breadery.
Angie Paris was also carrying empty milk bottles from the South Mountain Creamery, based in Middletown. The milk is sold in glass bottles that customers return after use.
Jackie Lorsong, the customer who purchased two chocolate milks and one 2 percent, said she buys from the creamery nearly every week. "I like to support the local farmers," she said.
Sowers said she gets to know her regular customers, because they return "week after week." She also sells her fresh dairy products at farmers' markets in Baltimore and Virginia, she said. But she likes selling from Glenwood, because her farm is close by. Besides, she said, "it's a really good market."
The Howard County Economic Development Authority's Agricultural Marketing Program has farmers' markets at three locations in the county. The markets, listed below, run through the fall season.
Thursdays: east Columbia library, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturdays: Glenwood library, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Sundays: Oakland Mills village center, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.