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Hot weather cools interest in debut of Arbutus farmers market

Though last week's high temperatures kept some residents and merchants away, those who braved the heat found a wide variety of goods at the opening of the new Arbutus Farmers Market.

Turnout was light to check out offerings ranging from pit beef and fresh vegetables to hot crab soup and cool milk in glass bottles June 9 on the parking lot of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department, at 5200 Southwestern Blvd.

"The number of people that have come, even with the heat, has really, really been good," said event organizer Patti Sue Nolan, president of the Arbutus Business and Professional Association. "I'm really happy."

Though some vendors cancelled due to the heat, which reach 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service website, Nolan remained confident about the market's future.

"I wouldn't stop on a day like this," she said.

Karen and Randy Sowers, owners of the Middletown-based South Mountain Creamery, said they would give business at the market a couple more weeks to pick up.

The pair brought cheeses, kefir yogurts and other dairy products to the market.

"Ice cream sales have been good," Karen Sowers said. "That's probably been the main thing that we're going to be empty on when we go home."

Arbutus resident Bridget Jones stopped by the creamery with her daughter, Ainsley, 4.

Jones said she was excited about the fresh milk that the creamery sells in glass bottles that residents can bring back from week to week.

"I actually haven't been to a farmer's market yet that has that," said the sixth-grade English teacher at Patuxent Valley Middle School in Jessup.

With June 22 the last day of school in Howard County, Jones said she plans on being a regular customer at the market.

"It's close and I like to support local businesses," she said. "I'll be excited to see if they have more produce.

"I like to ask questions, (such as) if it's organically grown," she said "Do they spray pesticides on it? Because you can usually ask the farmers."

Lansdowne resident Ruth Walter bought yellow squash, bing cherries and a yogurt from the creamery.

Though she has wanted to attend the Catonsville Wednesday Farmers Market in the past, Walter said its hours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bloomsbury Community Center don't work with her schedule.

Walter said she thought the Arbutus market's 2-6 p.m. Thursday schedule was great because it would allow her to stop by after work.

"I was really excited today that I was coming here," she said.

Walter said she hoped more residents would come out in the future.

"I want this to work," she said. "So when I need something, I can come right here and pick it up on Thursdays.

"I don't want to buy at the grocery store. I'm cutting the middle man out," she said. "It's fresher when you buy it here."

At Middle River Farmer George Zahradka's stand, bright orange carrots, earthy red beets, yellow squash, deep green zucchini and even sugar snap peas gleamed in the afternoon sunlight.

Zahradka, who also brought milk-fed pork and free-range chicken, said turnout would need to improve for him to keep participating in the market.

"It costs us $50 in fuel to get over here," he said, adding there was also the time spent loading the truck and maintaining the stand to consider.

He said he has seen other new markets fail in the past.

"If the community doesn't support you, you don't have a market," he said.

The heat advisory didn't keep Lynette Johnson and her husband, Matt, from buying fresh eggs from his stand.

Lynette Johnson said she had moved to the area from Washington state that day and needed to stock her refrigerator.

"I like it," said Matt Johnson, who grew up in Arbutus and returned to the area about a year ago.

"I would much rather buy my veggies at a (farmers) market, especially coming back from Washington where they have them everywhere out there," he said.

Catonsville resident Julie Eveland, who does catering at the fire station with her company For Real, Meals by Juls, said the heat didn't stop visitors from buying her crab soup.

"When you're in Maryland, cream of crab or Maryland crab soup is always good," she said. "I've been handing out samples of the shrimp salad and the chicken salad, the fruit salad.

"And as soon as I do that, they buy something," she said. "So it's been doing pretty good."

It was the first time participating in a farmers market for Lansdowne residents Harold and Anna Goodman, who brought crafts such as hand-painted gourds and carved wooden Santas from their company, Goody's Folk Art.

Though they maintain a shop in Elkridge and participate in area arts and craft shows, the Goodmans said they decided to participate in the market to support their community.

"And to advertise that we're local and have a local shop with handmade items," she said.

Catonsville resident Gerrit Marks brought offerings from his Rockville-based company, Chez G, a French café offering baked goods and other refreshments.

Though the heat kept Marks from setting out the tables and chairs he brought to the market, his case was still lined with loaves of multi-grain ciabatta, focaccia and French baguettes – all made with no preservatives.

There were muffins and "cheese crowns," pastries similar to a cheese danish, with a rich cheese filling on cinnamon raisin bread.

Marks said he wanted to participate in the market because it is so close to his home.

"It's more green, it's more environmentally friendly than getting in the truck and driving around the Beltway," he said.

With the high temperature and the market's first day, Marks said he wasn't discouraged by the light turnout.

"This is about what I expected," he said.

The Arbutus Farmers Market will be take place Thursdays, 2-6 p.m., at the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department at 5200 Southwestern Blvd. until the end of October. Its grand opening is scheduled for June 16, with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. and a visit from County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

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