Originally, the market was open only to farmers selling their produce, but over time, the vendor population has expanded. Today, the market includes about 50 farmers from Maryland and Pennsylvania, more than forty food vendors and about 35 crafters selling their wares in the "bazaar" section of the event.
The market draws between 5,000 and 10,000 visitors every Sunday, depending on the season; the busiest day is usually the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Farmers stress that the market is a great place not only for local produce and meat, but also for inspiration and education. Albright chats with his customers about issues that include agriculture regulations and the best way to cook beef tips.
"When people come to the market and interact with farmers, they get educated and change their perceptions and thoughts about how to eat. They eat healthier," he says.
But market vendors are not just in the business of lecturing. For vendors and customers alike, the social aspect of the market is an important part of its charm.
"The part you look forward to most is getting back to see the regular customers and other vendors you haven't seen in a few months," says Bartenfelder. "You get caught up on what the families are doing. It's the social atmosphere, not just the business, that makes the market successful."
"I think it's the crown jewel of all East Coast markets. A Baltimore landmark," says Banks. "There's something down-to-earth and charming about strolling through the market at 7 a.m., eating a pit beef sandwich or ice cream that early.
"It's a type of character only Baltimore can give."
The Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar is open every Sunday from April 7 through Dec. 22. The market opens at 7 a.m. and remains open until "sellout," which usually occurs around noon.
For more information about the Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar, visit http://www.bop.org
For information about other farmer's markets in the city of Baltimore, visit http://baltimore.org/taste-baltimore/farmers-markets/
Banksy's Swiss chard with bacon
Robert Banksy, whose restaurant Banksy's Cafe (6080 Falls Road, Baltimore; 410-377-4444) is also a popular vendor at the Baltimore Farmers' Market, says that after a visit to the market, his ideal Sunday dinner would be Maryland oven-fried chicken, redskin potato salad and Swiss chard.
For the potatoes, Banksy says, "Go mayo-free and dress with Dijon mustard, fresh tarragon, shallots, salt, pepper, a splash of cider vinegar and chopped cornichons or capers."
He prepares the Swiss chard like traditional collard greens, with smoked pork or turkey leg, using the recipe below.
1 bunch (about 2 pounds) Swiss chard (can substitute kale or collard greens)
1/2 pound applewood smoked bacon, diced (can substitute smoked turkey leg)
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1.5 quarts chicken or vegetable stock