Laurel Farmers Market quietly opens for the growing season

The Laurel Board of Trade's Farmers Market opened for the season June 6 in the empty lot next to BB&T Bank on Main Street.

The little-advertised "soft" opening of the weekly Thursday market only attracted three vendors, but Board of Trade officers said they have plenty planned for the coming weeks.

"I'd like to see the city build a stage so we could showcase local talent," Farmers Market co-chair Marvin Rogers said, such as performers from a Main Street dance studio and Laurel School of Music.

In addition to more farmers, Rogers said they expect to add some vendors selling lunch items, which would attract the lunchtime crowd to the market.

The city's Community Redevelopment Authority now owns the 12,000-square-foot lot after purchasing it from the Quill family in May for $300,000. The city leases the property from the authority and makes it available for events such as the Farmers Market and Main Street Festival.

The lone farm stand on opening day offered several varieties of lettuce, radishes with their tops, red tomatoes, strawberries, fresh peas, asparagus and garlic scapes from Fountain Farm, a Greensboro farm on the Eastern Shore that has sold at the market for several years.

"It's slow going but you would expect that for the first day," said William Harshman, who was working the stand.

Laurel wasn't the only stop for the farm today. Harshman said owner Ed Fountain was making local deliveries of the farm's produce to such places as Woodberry Kitchens in Baltimore.

North Laurel resident Julie Dina-Sogbesan was a returning vendor, offering powdered sugar-topped funnel cakes fried in a large kettle of oil, and fruit punch made from her own recipe.

"The punch has no sugar added," Dina-Sogbesan said, and blends the tastes of oranges, lemons, limes, pineapples, apples and "a secret ingredient."

Michelle Keating, an independent saleswoman for Lia Sophia jewelry, is a first-time vendor this year, and plans to set up a booth every week. A former Microsoft trainer in Washington, the Old Town resident said she is expanding her jewelry sales efforts after being laid off from her training job when government contracts dried up.

Guitarist John Bowman played classic rock to the small crowd, and tables were set up under tents to shield shoppers from rain, or sun.

The Board of Trade started its Farmers Market in 1996 at the end of Avondale Street, in Riverfront Park. Four years later, it moved to the current Main Street lot, and last year was informally renamed Frank and Gail's Farmers Market, in memory of Frank Gosman, a Laurel businessman and LBOT member who organized the market for years, and Gail Reinhardt, the LBOT administrator who died in 2012.

The Farmers Market will continue on Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., through October, with more farmers and a wider variety of produce for sale as the growing season continues.

"It's early for some of the crops," Rogers said. "Hopefully, things will pick up."


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