For more than two decades, the Carroll County Winter Farmers' Market in Westminster has been catering to shoppers looking for fresh produce and homemade items.
This year will be no different, as the market kicks off its 21st season tomorrow at the Agricultural Center on Smith Avenue in Westminster.
Beginning tomorrow and every Saturday through Dec. 19, the farmers' market will have more than 125 vendors offering produce, meats, baked goods, crafts, flowers and a variety of holiday decorations.
Connie Bialecki, co-manager of the market, said that in recent years it has stayed open longer because of the business generated by shoppers looking for holiday items.
"In addition to the crafts, home-baked goods and fresh produce, we have Christmas decorations, fresh and artificial greens and poinsettias beginning in December," said Mrs. Bialecki.
"The closer we get to Thanksgiving and Christmas, the crowds are very intense. That's why the last few years we have spread it out over seven Saturdays instead of four. It just got too crowded on those four Saturdays."
Mrs. Bialecki and her co-manager, Anita O'Day Bullock, have been organizing and publicizing the farmers' market for the past 15 years.
They say that while the market has grown in size over the years, it has not lost its friendly, personal charm.
"It's still one big happy family," said Mrs. Bullock, who sells pies and cakes. "There is a friendly atmosphere among all the stall operators, and the customers are so nice. They really appreciate what you do and how hard you work."
Marjorie Baugher, whose family owns and operates Baugher Enterprises Inc., has been selling produce and other goodies at the market since it started.
Mrs. Baugher said she has found that the years she has spent as a vendor at the farmers' market have provided a different kind of opportunity for her family's business.
"We were asked in the beginning to come to the market, and it has been another way for us to draw customers and get exposure," Mrs. Baugher said. "We take apples and cider and we sell cheese by the slice, which we do not do at any other markets. Through our samples, we are able to try new varieties out on people. Also it's more personal; we can talk to people and help recommend certain apples for baking or whatever."
Each Saturday, the farmers' market promotes vendors and their goods from Carroll and surrounding counties.
"We usually have more applicants then we can accommodate," Mrs. Bialecki said. "We look for quality work and reasonable prices. We want to display items that the average person can afford."
She said that for the first time this year, an Easter Farmers' Market will be held the Saturday before Palm Sunday.
Admission to the Carroll County Farmers' Market is free, as is parking.
Breakfast and lunch are available each Saturday. Information: 875-2158.