Arbutus Farmers Market to close for season this week

Foreboding, dark skies and rough winds left the Arbutus Farmers Market without vendors on its penultimate day of the season Oct. 20.

It's been a common refrain for the weekly Thursday market as there have been few good weather days in its first year.

On June 9, the market's opening day, for example, temperatures climbed to nearly 100 degrees.

Often through the rest of the summer and fall season, intrepid vendors and customers battled heavy downpours on the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department's parking lot at 5200 Southwestern Blvd.

But all in all, market organizer Patti Sue Nolan called the first season of the Arbutus Farmers Market a good one as it comes to an end Thursday, Oct. 27.

"I think it's been a wonderful first season," said Nolan, president of the Arbutus Business and Professional Association, which sponsored the event.

"It's been a challenge," she said. "But that's farming, so they say."

Despite those challenges, Nolan said the farmers market's fruits, vegetables, bakery items, olive oil, seafood and crafts drew a couple of hundred customers each week at the beginning of the season.

She noted the numbers started to dwindle when school started, though.

Next year, Nolan said she hopes to keep the market, which runs Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m., popular even after school starts by appealing to the youngsters.

She said she might try to have programs or demonstrations that appeal to young children, such as one about canning vegetables.

If Nolan has her way, the market will also attract more commuters from the nearby Halethorpe MARC train station.

"I have signs down there, but I don't think that does it," said Nolan, who plans to market at the station more consistently next year and hand out fliers to the commuters as they exit.

One coup for the market this year was luring Boordy Vineyards to Arbutus after Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a law in May that allowed vintners to sell bottles of wine at farmers markets.

Boordy Vineyards, the only vintner to sell at the market this year, made its first appearance July 28 and is scheduled to return for the final day of the season Oct. 27.

Nolan hopes to attract more wineries next year by simplifying the paperwork that may be too overwhelming for smaller wineries in the area.

"I'm going to make it easier for them," Nolan said.

The Arbutus Farmers Market already has had vendors reserve spaces for next year, Nolan said.

"I have commitments (for vegetables), a bakery, seafood and fruits," Nolan said. "I'm going to build it around that core.

"I think I'm going to get a couple craft vendors. People seem to like them, and they do well."

One of the cornerstone vendors of the farmers market has been Anderson Seafood.

The company, which operates its delivery service from a warehouse in Arbutus, sold Maryland crab meat and jarred oysters at each Thursdays farmers market except those on Oct. 13 and 20 when the dreary weather kept it away.

Despite the season's poor weather, Kim Anderson, owner of the company, expects the market to expand and improve.

"I think the first year is the roughest because you're getting vendors together and you're getting (the word out)," Anderson said. "I think it will grow each year as long as we have faithful vendors come back."

She didn't the local market's debut was not a success, despite the weather.

"It was very good because I saw a lot of my old customers and I got a lot of new customers," Anderson said.

Bettina Pressman, owner of Beads by Bettina, also saw great potential in the market's future.

Pressman started selling her jewelry at farmers markets this year after direct sales to stores started drying up because of the economy, she said.

Pressman attended only a few of the markets toward the end of the season, but expects to return next year.

In fact, she can't wait.

"I think it's only going to grow," Pressman said. "It's great local produce. Even I'm getting spoiled. I don't know what I'm going to do when the markets are over."

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