BERLIN — The Berlin Farmers Market, a decades old tradition that brings together local growers and consumers, is larger this year than ever and still looking to expand.
At an all-time high of vendors, with 18 showing up on most Fridays, the market has grown past offering only vegetables and produce. Seafood vendors sell clams and oysters next to florists and bakers, among others.
On-site Market Master Terry Jordan explained that it’s not a place just for produce any longer, as much as it is a “producer’s” market.
A regular at the market for close to a decade, Jordan is the owner of Longridge Gardens, based in Parsonsburg, Md. Though Berlin’s isn’t the only market she attends, Jordan said that the town sets itself apart through its practices.
“This is a quaint little area,” she said.
Jordan was appreciative of the historic appeal of Berlin, and the way it drew in both out-of-town visitors and locals. She also noted that the town administration has been more than welcoming to vendors.
Though the option to relocate the market became available in the past, Jordan revealed that Berlin doesn’t want the vendors to move.
“The mayor said, ‘we want you here,’” she said.
But it’s not just town officials that are backing the market, as the local consumers seem to be intent on keeping it in Berlin as well.
“We have quite a great crowd of locals that support us,” said Jordan.
On such local is Carolie Patton, who has been frequenting the market for more than 10 years.
“I believe in shopping local,” she said.
Though August is the official month for Maryland’s “Buy Local Challenge,” an event where everyone in the state is encouraged to visit farmer’s markets and produce stands in an attempt to buy as many products as they can locally, Patton has made the practice a year-round habit.
“I try and get most of my produce locally,” she said.
In Patton’s opinion, the benefits of buying from local growers far outweigh the extra effort and sometimes extra cost when compared to shopping at a grocery store.
“The product is better,” she stated.
That faith in what she’s buying, said Patton, comes from interacting with the growers, getting to meet with them and ask them questions about what she is buying.
“You get to know who you’re dealing with,” said Patton.
Jordan agreed that communication played a fundamental role in defining what makes a farmer’s market.
“It’s become more of a social place,” she said of the market, which is held every Friday and Wednesday during the season.
“You get to meet the farmer,” she later added.
While farmer’s markets are most common during the summer months, Berlin boasts a dedicated number of growers who carry on all year, mainly through the use of greenhouses.
“We grow a lot of crops in the winter,” confirmed Pat Pilling, a representative of Provident Organic Farms.
Provident, which is a community-supported agricultural group (CSA) with almost 30 years of history, began selling produce during the winter months last year, a practice that other vendors have also taken up.
“Greenhouses allow us to grow crops … to grow things like lettuce in the winter,” said Christina Martin, a seasonal employee with Provident.
As of now, she estimated that there are two or three vendors who take advantage of a “small window of opportunity” and continue visiting the market during the winter. That number could increase, though, once greenhouse growing catches on in the area.
While a majority of vendors sell produce like Longridge and Provident, there are several other, less expected options at the market. Joining the event just last March, “R-DAD” clams and oysters is one of a limited number of seafood vendors to set up shop twice a week in Berlin during the summer. According to owners Ginger and Bill Taylor, the name is made from the initials of family members, some of whom work for R-DAD occasionally.
“It is a family thing,” said Ginger Taylor of the business.
R-DAD specializes in top-neck and little-neck clams, jarred oysters and a variety of other seafood.
“Everything we have is farm grown,” said Ginger Taylor.
She added that R-DAD will be one of the few vendors who will still be attending the Berlin Farmers market after the summer season is over.
“We’ll be here all winter,” she confirmed.
At first glance, working through the winter might seem strange. Without the influx of visitors typical to the Eastern Shore during the Memorial Day through Labor Day crunch, produce sales are generally lower, while the effort and workload can remain the same or even increase. But Jordan observed that for most farmers and growers, money is secondary to the process itself.
“I love what I’m doing,” she said. “It’s in my bones now.”
Jordan explained that most people’s first impression of farming was that it was almost a leisure activity, spending the day outside and getting some exercise. And while Jordan agreed that it was an activity she enjoyed, it is miles away from the cakewalk most people view it as.
“It’s definitely fun, but hard work,” she said.
With 18 regular vendors, Jordan did admit that space is becoming limited for further expansion of the market, though spilling over from the current location into other parts of Berlin is a possibility.
For the time being at least, Jordan said the market is thriving in town and not looking to leave anytime soon.
“We’re staying,” she said.