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New farmers' market won't be far from existing one Some residents skeptical, but growers are pleased


A new weekly farmers' market at Dobbin Center -- designed to replace one Rouse Co. officials closed last month at Harper's Choice Village Center -- will be barely two miles from east Columbia's other such market at Oakland Mills Village Center.

Rouse closed the west Columbia farmers' market barely a year after it opened to make way for construction of a Safeway store, stirring complaints from farmers.

The 18 growers who sold their goods at the Harper's Choice market will move about five miles to Dobbin Center, where there are no full-service grocery stores, said Rouse official Elizabeth Buckley, who oversees the markets.

The market at Dobbin Center -- which will run Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. -- opens May 6.

But barely two miles from the Dobbin Center market in east Columbia, 22 growers now sell their goods on Thursdays during the warmer months in the parking lot of the Oakland Mills Village Center.

Still, many growers -- who had planted crops for the summer expecting the market outlet -- said they were glad to have the Harper's Choice market replaced with a heavily traveled location that is expected to draw up to 800 people a week.

"Anywhere they put us would be exciting, just as long as there's a market," said Dolores Magnani of St. Mary's County, who sold at the Harper's Choice market. "We already have produce like potatoes, onions and peas growing in the fields.

"If there was no market early in the week, we'd have an overabundance of stuff that we probably would have to throw away," Magnani said.

The new location drew the praise of Phil Gottwals, an agricultural specialist for the county.

"The demand is certainly there for providing direct market produce to consumers," he said. "The problem often is finding the farmers and an accessible location. Putting one on such a heavily traveled road as Route 175 is going to be a win-win situation for all."

But some area residents are skeptical, saying the two markets may not be able to compete with each other.

Erin Peacock, village manager of Oakland Mills Village Center, said: "I was a little nervous, hearing that the two markets were going to be so close together, but I hope the market in Dobbin Center will get lots of people traveling to and from the area for work and the one in Oakland Mills will keep the core of people who live in Columbia."

In any case, it is not clear how much such markets help Maryland farmers since the majority of sellers at markets throughout the state, experts say, are from Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Pub Date: 4/09/97

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