Most of us are pretty picky about our produce these days.
We want fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in taste and nutrition, and many of us would like produce grown with fewer pesticides. If we can't grow it ourselves, the next best alternative may be buying directly from the producer at a local farmers' market.
That's becoming easier and more convenient. This year alone, new markets are starting up in Pikesville, Prince George's County, Dunkirk, Leonardtown and Westminster, Abingdon and Aberdeen Proving Ground -- swelling the number of farmers' markets statewide to 64. The increasing demand for fresh produce also means that more markets are opening for two days instead of just one day.
In light of the added convenience of extended hours and locations, Tony Evans, a market developer for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, asks: "Why not eat produce at the peak of flavor?"
He adds: "In most cases, in these producer-only markets, the produce is less than 24 hours old."
Since the person standing on the other side of the table was involved in growing the produce, we have the opportunity to ask about varietals, pesticides and freshness.
We aren't limited to fresh produce, either. Most farmers' markets are offering fresh-baked breads, seafoods, flowers, jams, meats and cheeses.
At Jones Station Market in Severna Park, Sharon and John Holz sell freshly made cheeses from their Just-So-Dairy, in West River, Anne Arundel County. They offer customers a Portuguese cheese, a creamy goat-cheese spread, herbed goat cheeses and goat-cheese logs. Their goats and cows graze on pesticide-free fields. The cheeses -- which cost between $6 and $9 a pound -- are made without preservatives and are sold within 21 days of production.
But consumers and producers are not the only ones who benefit from farmers' markets. Communities see the markets as a way of generating new business.
"We were looking for a project that would bring people into Pikesville and spill over into the retail businesses," says Gabriel W. Rosenbush, manager of the new Pikesville Farmers' Market.
The Pikesville market will open July 5 and operate from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Wednesday through October. In addition to farmers and a bakery, the Ladies Auxiliary of the St. Charles Church -- where the market will be held -- will sell ready-made foods, handcrafts, jams and jellies to raise funds for the church. Sinai Hospital will have a weekly exhibit to hand out health- related literature.
Following is a partial list of local farmers' markets. For a list of markets throughout Maryland, send a self-addressed stamped business-size envelope to: Market Directory, Maryland Department of Agriculture, 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, Md. 21401
Anne Arundel County
Anne Arundel County Farmers' Market is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. or sell-out each Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday through Oct. 17 at Riva Road and Harry S. Truman Parkway. The market will be open Tuesdays and Saturdays only between Oct. 21 and Dec. 17. (410) 867-1777.
Jones Station Farmers' Market operates each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through late November at Richie Highway and Jones Station Road in Severna Park. (410) 820-8725.
Piney Orchard Farmers' Market will open June 28 and operate from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Wednesday through October at the Piney Orchard Community Center lot on Odenton Stream Valley Road. Call Tony Evans at (410) 841-5770.
Baltimore Farmers' Market is held each Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon or sell-out between June 25 and Dec. 17, at Holiday and Saratoga streets, under the Jones Falls Expressway viaduct. (410) 752-8632.
Gardenville Farmers' Market will open June 24 and run from 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Nov. 18 at 4400 Frankford Ave., on St. Anthony's Church parking lot. (410) 488-0653.
Howard Park Farmers' Market operates Saturdays from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Dec. 23 at Woodbine and Liberty Heights avenues. (410) 542-6222.
Park Heights Community Farmers' Market will run from noon to 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday rain or shine through Nov. 22 at Park Heights Avenue and Pimlico Race Course. (410) 542-6610.
32nd Street Farmers' Market operates 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Nov. 18, although some vendors offer limited produce unofficially year-round. It's located in Charles Village in the 400 block of East 32nd Street, near Greenmount. (410) 243-1287.
Dundalk Village Farmers' Market will open July 8 and operate from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday through Oct. 21 on Shipping Place in Veterans Park, behind the post office. (410) 631-9090.
Essex Farmers' Market will open July 11 and run each Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Oct. 24 at the O-GO Sales parking lot at 510 Eastern Blvd. (410) 687-9080.
Golden Ring Mall Farmers' Market will open in early July and operate from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Wednesday through October at Golden Ring Mall. Call Tony Evans at (410) 841-5770.
Owings Mills New Town Farmers' Market will be open every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Oct. 10 at the New Town Visitors Center. (410) 363-2862 or (410) 823-4700.
Pikesville Farmers' Market will open July 5 and run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Wednesday through Oct. 25 at 110 Sudbrook Lane. (410) 653-5019.
Towson Farmers' Market will open June 29 and run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 25 on Allegheny Avenue, between Washington and York roads. (410) 825-1144.
Carroll County Farmers' Market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Sept. 2 at the Ag Center on Smith Avenue, overlooking the Farm Museum. (410) 875-2158.
Downtown Westminster Farmers' Market is open from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 30 at Sherwood Square parking lot on Railroad Avenue. (410) 239-7503.
South Carroll Farmers' Market will open July 9 and operate from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays through October, at West Hemlock Drive and Liberty Road, Eldersburg. (410) 374-2928.
Aberdeen Proving Ground Farmers' Market will open June 29 and operates from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Thursday through October at Proving Ground Road and Raritan Avenue, near the movie theater. (410) 638-3059.
Abingdon Wal-Mart Farmers' Market will open July 1 and run each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October in the parking lot of Wal-Mart on Constant Friendship Boulevard off Route 24. (410) 638-3059.
Bel Air Farmers' Market operates from 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Dec. 2 at Bond and Thomas streets, the Mary Risteau Building. (410) 879-9500.
Bel Air Weekly Farmers' Market is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through October at Boulton Street and Route 24, across from Kelly Field. (410) 879-9500.
Oakland Mills Farmers' Market is open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Nov. 16 at Oakland Mills Village Center in Columbia. (410) 964-2020.