This year, Sharon Callahan, coordinator of the Hampstead Farmers Market, decided to set her attendance goal at 15,000, a 4,000 person jump from last year. In order to achieve this, every resident of Hampstead — 6,323 based on the 2010 U.S. Census — would have to attend at least twice. However, it now seems like the market will surpass that mark, she said.
"We had 900 people in attendance on July 5, compared to just 600 the same time last year," Callahan said. "We are averaging 60 percent more visitors than last year."
The market's co-coordinator, Marlene Duff, said the reason this summer has been so successful is because they have listened to what the visitors, crafters and farmers want for the last five years and have created a cohesive environment for all participants.
"This year it really came together," Duff said.
When the market first began five years ago, it opened with just four vendors. Since then, Callahan and Duff have added dozens of crafters and farmers, but some have very specialized skills, such as crochet toy-making and a homemade soap distributor.
Callahan stressed, however, that this is not a typical flea market. All vendors are from the local community, including Hampstead and other parts of Carroll County, southern York County and northern Baltimore County. One such vendor is Jenny Gross, owner of Hillside Meadow Farm, in Glenville, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Jason, who has participated in the market since the beginning. She said the most obvious result of the massive turnouts is the drastic increase in profits. They have been selling out of most of their produce and have begun to bring more to meet the crowd's demands. The fact that the market is more well known and established has led to a wider variety of vendors, Jenny said.
A new vendor to this year's market is Matt Myers, owner of Ripple Creek Farm, in Hampstead, along with his wife, Lisa, and their two children, Madison, 3, and Luke, 1. He said he and his wife wanted to participate in the market sooner, but the farm's crop yield was not sufficient enough until this year, or so they thought.
"I'm lucky to have any berries left at 9:30 a.m., a half hour after the market opens," Matt said.
Matt also said he believes the market is so successful because of the popularity of buying local. People really care about where their food comes from and at the same time supporting their local economy, he said. Another reason for its success is every vendor has something unique about them, something that no one else can provide. Yes, there is some overlap, Matt said, but the individual monopoly every vendor has keeps the market from getting too competitive.
Callahan said unlike other industries, the vendors at the market have developed a wonderful sense of community spirit, which she believes contributes to the success of the event.
"Even though [the vendors] are competitors, they aren't competitive," she said. "Everybody works together as a team to benefit Hampstead and the Carroll County community."
On the surface, the Hampstead Farmers Market is an opportunity for visitors to get a look and taste of the local community while the vendors get the chance to improve profitability and marketability, Callahan said. But she said the market is much more than an economic venture, it is a chance to strengthen the community.
"It's just magical, to see families with their children, and the quality, not just of the products but the spirit of the market, its all working out," Callahan said.
Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email him at email@example.com.
If You Go
What: Sixth annual Hampstead Farmers Market
Where: Hampstead Volunteer fire company carnival grounds, 1341 N. Main. St., Hampstead.
When: The market runs from June through September, every Saturday from 9 a.m.-noon.
More Information: Visit the market's website at http://www.hampsteadfarmersmarket.com or call Sharon Callahan at 443-605-9984.