Bel Air-area residents should set their alarms early for Saturday morning, so they can get first dibs on the merchandise available for the opening of the 2013 season of the Bel Air Farmers' Market.
Forty-seven vendors are scheduled to be on hand from 7 to 11 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot of the Mary Risteau Office Building at Thomas and South Bond streets in Bel Air. They include several organic vendors, plus a number of specialty vendors, selling products such as cupcakes, salsa, kettle-cooked popcorn and more.
Andrea Kestner, manager of the Bel Air Farmers' Market, said there are 11 additional vendors for the 38th season.
The list posted on the Farmers' Market website, http://www.belairfarmersmarket.com, includes vendors of a variety of products, from the traditional fresh fruits and vegetables, to meats such as beef and poultry, even bison, to dairy products, eggs, flowers, even dog treats.
"Every year we're hoping to continue to grow the market, to keep the basics there, but also add more so it's a one-stop shop for the entire family," Kestner said.
She said patrons, who come not just from Bel Air and Harford County, but from Baltimore, Baltimore County and Cecil County as well, have the opportunity to take care of all their food shopping needs for the week – as well as many other goods – and talk directly with the producers.
"The producer is right there, to be one on one with them," Kestner explained.
The season will continue each Saturday through Nov. 16, she said. The Tuesday market day, which was added four years ago, will not be available this year, though, because of low attendance on Tuesdays.
Market organizers welcome dogs, but encourage dogs to be "other pet friendly," according to the website. Dog owners should clean up after their pooches, and be prepared to leave them at home during hot weather.
April will also be Art Month at the Farmers' Market, the fourth year for exhibitions of local artwork at the market.
Artists – especially those who live in Harford County – are encouraged to apply to exhibit their works for three Saturdays in April, at a cost of $10 per day.
Applicants must submit three pictures of their work and a short personal biography. For more information, visit http://www.belairfarmersmarket.com/Art-Month.html.
Another Art Month will take place in October.
Family entertainment provided by Extreme Family Entertainment and local musicians will be available during the season, plus on-site food preparation by Open Door Cafe and Pairings Bistro chefs, using products available at the market.
Kestner said patrons "get to have something to eat, as well as enjoy the products of the farmers, and if they like the products they can go right to the producer and purchase them."
Kestner stated in an e-mail that the market also provides a free space for nonprofit organizations, and the market supports SARC – Safety, Awareness, Resources, Change – of Harford County.
Volunteers with SARC can be seen accepting donations to support victims of domestic violence – the support includes providing well-balanced meals at the organization's shelter.
Tree seedling giveaway
Bob Syphard, senior planner with the Bel Air Planning Department, who is among the town staff working with Farmers' Market organizers, said several varieties of tree seedlings will also be given away this Saturday.
He said it is a project of Bel Air's Tree Committee, the Master Gardeners of Harford County and the state's Forest Service "working together to promote Arbor Day."
Arbor Day is celebrated around the U.S. in late April, often by planting trees in communities.
Syphard said the seedlings, which were donated by the Forest Service, will be available "for as long as they last."
Wednesday market coming
The town of Bel Air is the primary sponsor of the Saturday market, and town officials are working with community partners to put together a Wednesday market this year, scheduled to open May 8 in the town's Main Street parking lot at 33 S. Main St.
Syphard stressed the Wednesday market is not related to the Saturday market.
"There's no connection between the Bel Air Farmers' Market on Saturday, versus the downtown market on Wednesday," he said.
The Wednesday market, called the Marketplace on Main, is sponsored by the town, plus the Bel Air Downtown Alliance and the Mill of Bel Air on North Main Street. It will be held in the lot between the Sheriff's Office headquarters and the Main Street Tower restaurant.
The Wednesday market will be smaller than the Saturday market, with space available for about 12 vendors, Syphard said.
He said organizers expect to know the "final lineup" of vendors in about two to three weeks; it should include produce growers, plus food, and arts and crafts vendors.
"It's a farmers' market, but there's going to be a vendor component that is food related, consumables on site as well as carry off," Syphard explained.
The market will be open from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sept. 25. Syphard can be reached at 410- 879-9500 for more information.