To Kathy Johnson, there’s nothing like tasting that first strawberry of the spring when it’s freshly picked, that first ear of sweet corn in the summer and that first crisp apple in the fall.

That’s why, between May and November, Johnson and countless others buy their produce from one of six Howard County farmers markets.

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“All of the fruits and vegetables are usually picked that morning or the night before, so you know it’s at the peak of ripeness and freshness, it’s at the peak of nutritional value, and the flavor is so much better than something that has been traveling anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 miles before it gets to your grocery store,” says Johnson, director of agricultural business development for the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

farmers markets also give customers a chance to meet their local farmers, reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to the local economy, she says.

The number of farmers markets in Howard County has fluctuated over the years, with the county housing as few as one and as many as seven in a season. Too many markets can lead to smaller crowds and lower profits for the farmers, Johnson says. In recent years, markets have closed in Glenwood and outside of Howard County General Hospital in Columbia.

The key to a successful market is variety, says Jamie Brown, owner of TLV Tree Farm in Glenelg and president of the Howard County Global Farmers Markets board, which operates three of the six markets in the county.

“One grower comes out of Virginia,” he says. “They’re two to three weeks ahead of us in the growing season. We put them in the market so we get the early tomatoes, the early sweet corn. Then when we [grow] them, they start getting into their fall stuff. It keeps the ball rolling through the year with plenty of vegetables at the market.”

Along with the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, shoppers can buy everything from local milk, eggs and meat to prepared meals, artwork and whiskey at the markets.

Here’s where to find them – and some of the more unusual items offered – this fall.

Marna Metcalf-Akbar of Columbia makes a purchase at the Breezy Willow Farm tent at the Saturday Farmers Market in old town Ellicott City. Meredith Varner, center, and Laura Armstrong work behind the counter.
Marna Metcalf-Akbar of Columbia makes a purchase at the Breezy Willow Farm tent at the Saturday Farmers Market in old town Ellicott City. Meredith Varner, center, and Laura Armstrong work behind the counter. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Ellicott City Old Town Market

Saturdays through Oct. 26, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Howard County Courthouse parking lot, 3691 Sarah’s Lane, Ellicott City

Surprising finds:

Horseshoe sculptures from Strohmer’s Farm – Woodstock farmer Bud Strohmer creates tabletop art pieces out of metal horseshoes designed to look like cowboys sitting on a fence. $15-$145.

Peruvian specialty drinks from Tasty Peruvian – Ritesh Manjakuppam and Lucrecia Santoyo of Columbia make and sell chichi morada made from purple corn (grown in the mountains of Peru) and maracuya made from passion fruit. $5 for 24 ounces.

Necklaces from With Love, Sarah – Owner and Marriottsville resident Sarah Bovie makes necklaces from broken pottery found during the Ellicott City flood cleanup and then donates half of the profits back to shop owners. $30.

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Ellicott City – Miller Branch Library

Wednesdays through Nov. 20, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Surprising finds:

Namaste pizza from River House Pizza Co. – The Ellicott City-based pizza company’s specialty 12-inch pie comes with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and baby portobello mushrooms. $12.

Mango peach kombucha from Wild Kombucha – Brewed in Baltimore, this kombucha is made by mixing tea and sugar with yeast and bacteria. $3.50 for a single bottle, $18 for a six-pack.

Chili-infused olive oil from Dimitri Olive Oil – Dimitri Olive Oil in Baltimore makes its extra virgin oil using olives from a family farm in southern Greece. Cost: $20 for a 375-milliliter bottle.

Columbia – East Columbia Branch Library

Thursdays through Nov.14, noon to 6 p.m.

East Columbia Branch Library parking lot, 6600 Cradlerock Way, Columbia

Surprising finds:

Bacon- and cheese-flavored dog treats – Pennsylvania-based Orchard County Produce and Fruit Farm, the sole vendor at this market, makes the dog treats from scratch. $1 for three.

Quince jam – Farm-grown quince, a fruit that resembles a yellow apple, is used to make this jam. $6.

Baby back ribs – The ribs are from pigs raised on site. $6 per pound.

Donna Ashcroft , left, assists customers at the TLV Farm stand at the Oakland Mills Village Center farmers market. The TLV Farm in Glenelg sells flowers, fruits, vegetables and meats.
Donna Ashcroft , left, assists customers at the TLV Farm stand at the Oakland Mills Village Center farmers market. The TLV Farm in Glenelg sells flowers, fruits, vegetables and meats. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Columbia – Oakland Mills Village Center

Sundays through Nov. 24, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

5851 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia

Surprising finds:

Fresh turkey from TLV Tree Farm – Glenelg farmer Jamie Brown and his family raise and process turkeys on their farm, making them available to customers in early November. $3.49 per pound.

Jackfruit juice and jerk chicken from Althea’s Almost Famous – Columbia resident Althea Becke draws upon her Jamaican roots to make a range of specialty dishes at the market. 5 for a 16-ounce jackfruit juice, $15 for jerk chicken.

Salted caramel cupcakes from Stone House Cakery and Cafe – The Carroll County business uses fresh ingredients from local farms whenever possible. $3 each, or $10 for four.

Clarksville – Clarksville Commons

Saturdays through Nov. 23, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

12264-12276 Clarksville Pike, Clarksville

Surprising finds:

Decorative pumpkins and colorful tote bags from The Salvaged Stitch – West Friendship resident Deanna Newkirk makes the pumpkins from upholstery fabric samples. She also makes three sizes of tote bags. $6 for pumpkins, $16-$24 for tote bags.

Pumpkin streusel and cinnamon roll muffins from Not Your Grandma’s Goodies – Jen Lamp of Laurel bakes these low-carb, gluten-free treats. $4 each for seasonal muffins, or three for $10.

Raw milk and heavy cream from Hensing’s Hilltop Acres – Maryland law prevents sales of raw milk for human consumption, so the Dayton farm’s products are labeled for pets. $5 per half gallon of raw milk, $8 per pint of heavy cream.

Mark Welsh, owner of Buck's Dough Bakery, is a teacher at Worthington Elementary School. In his spare time he makes bread and sells it at the Saturday farmers market in Fulton.
Mark Welsh, owner of Buck's Dough Bakery, is a teacher at Worthington Elementary School. In his spare time he makes bread and sells it at the Saturday farmers market in Fulton. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Fulton – Maple Lawn Farmers and Artists Market

Saturdays through Nov. 2, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

8155 Maple Lawn Blvd. (near the pavilion), Fulton

Surprising finds:

Olympic Asian pears and oriental persimmons from Falcon Ridge Farm – The Westminster farm grows the crisp, juicy Olympic Asian pears that originate from Korea, as well as Oriental persimmons, which are high in fiber and vitamins A and C, in the fall. Cost to be determined.

Olney Pumpkin Eggnog from Twin Valley Distillers and Gregarious Gin from MISCellaneous Distillery – Rockville-based Twin Valley Distillers makes its pumpkin eggnog with whiskey, rum, pumpkin and pumpkin spice, while Mt. Airy-based MISCellaneous Distillery makes its gin from a molasses base and distills it with vapor-infused botanicals to give it a citrus taste. $25 per 750-milliliter bottle of eggnog, $45 per 750-milliliter bottle of gin.

Butcher block cutting boards from WoodSpeaks – Andrea Covington of Columbia makes cutting boards in a range of sizes out of birch, maple and walnut woods. $90 to $190, depending on the size.

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