This summer, where can you locate fresh vegetables, meet local farmers, and share cooking tips? Starting May 20, you will find these things (and more) at the Urbana Library Farmers’ Market, which runs through the first Sunday in October.
Vendors from about five farms will sell a variety of produce every Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. in the back parking lot of the Urbana Regional Library. The local farmers offer sweet corn, asparagus, strawberries, watermelon, onions, potatoes and other produce. The market, which has been running for two years, is a place where “you can do your grocery shopping all in one place,” said Full Cellar farmer Kip Kelley.
Vendors also sell locally produced gluten and dairy-free baked goods, honey, barbecue, eggs, cheese and native plants. Ray Wickline of Blue Faerie Farm is one of the market’s organizers and said this year’s vendors may include wineries.
A portion of the profits are donated to support Urbana’s library as well as the local food bank.
Here’s a closer look at three of the local farmers who will be offering their fresh produce in Urbana this summer.
Full Cellar Farm
Kip Kelley owns and runs Full Cellar Farm in Jefferson, Md., where he and his wife grow vegetables including potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and cabbage. He also raises chickens and sells eggs and chicken meat at the farmers’ market. His tulips and daffodils are also customer favorites.
As a farmer, Kelley loves to work outside instead of spending all day in an office, and he takes pride in growing beautiful vegetables for his customers. He said he plans to sell French cantaloupes, seedless watermelon, purple beans, head lettuce, leeks, turkeys for Thanksgiving, and pumpkins for the first time at the farmers’ market in Urbana this year. In the future, he hopes to start a winter subscription farming service, which will offer salad greens and other leafy vegetables.
Growing up on a sheep farm in Poolesville, Md., led to Kelly’s lifelong desire to work on a farm. After teaching Spanish at a middle school for two years, he found he didn’t have much time for farming. He decided two years ago to change careers and become a full-time farmer. He has participated in farmers’ markets for three years.
“You can get the freshest tasting vegetables around at farmers’ markets” like the one in Urbana, he said, because you can eat vegetables the same day they are picked.
A Better Choice Bakery
Beth Johnson operates A Better Choice Bakery in Brunswick, Md., where she sells gluten and dairy-free baked goods such as brownies, cookies, cobbler and pumpkin bread, as well as vegan cupcakes.
“I modify a lot of recipes,” Johnson said. She has been baking since she was a child, began selling baked goods in 2007, and opened her own bakery two months ago.
Johnson said her best-selling item is her peanut-butter swirl brownies. At this year’s farmers’s market, she plans to sell a lot more breads and pies using in-season fruit. Several customers have also ordered their wedding cakes from her for this summer. When asked about her plans for the future, Johnson said she wants to make raw and organic desserts and would love for her baked goods to be sold in restaurants.
Johnson said the motivation to make dairy and gluten-free baked goods was to help her 11-year-old son, who has autism, as well as improve her own health. Her products can also be found at the Common Market grocery store and at South Mountain Veggies in Frederick. Johnson said she works seven days a week and rarely takes vacation, but she said she genuinely loves working in her store.
“I have literally found myself dancing in here and having a blast,” she said.
Mayne Tree Farm in Buckeystown, Md., grows 65,000 Christmas trees. Merle Mayne owns the farm, which for decades has attracted local tree customers as well as buyers from as far away as New York. The farm, which Mayne’s father bought in 1956, also sells pumpkins, strawberries, asparagus, corn, soy beans and more.
Being a farmer is very “self-rewarding,” he said.
This will be Mayne’s third year at the Urbana Library’s Farmers’ Market, where he plans to sell sweet corn, kale, peas and beets. He said what he most enjoys about the market is talking to customers and helping them learn how to cook corn.
“Corn is one vegetable you do not need to cook long,” he said. “You can steam it for five minutes.”
Mayne emphasized the importance of shopping at farmers’ markets. The key benefit, he said, is that customers can know who and where their produce comes from and who grows it, as well as buy vegetables that are very fresh. Mayne said grocery store shoppers have to trim off up to half of a stalk of an asparagus found in the produce section because it has dried out during long-distance shipment and storage. At the farmers’ market, he said, customers can buy produce that is fresh enough to eat in its entirety.
Mayne, a 46-year veteran of farming and one of the original founders of the Urbana Library Farmers’ Market, said he also enjoys selling produce directly from his farm, where people can stop by anytime and purchase his vegetables.