Along the curving driveway on Pam Pahl's farm outside Randallstown, boxes of berries and bottles of jams and relishes are displayed on a card table. On another table are plants for sale.
The small stand is a new touch for a woman who has been selling produce for decades. But what she really likes is to be behind the table at a vibrant farmers' market.
"It's one thing to stay home on the farm all day, but it's nice when you go out and you take your produce and your product right to the people," said Pahl, who plans to begin her 27th year at the Towson Farmers' Market when it opens today for another summer. "It's fun interacting with customers because normally they're so far removed from the farm. People don't realize where food comes from, and this way we're connecting them with the farm."
Pahl will be among the 15 vendors expected to sell their wares at the Towson market, which is scheduled for every Thursday through Nov. 2. Freshly cut flowers, vegetables, fruit, nuts and other treats are for sale.
On days with nice weather, about 1,000 people crowd Allegheny Avenue, according to Suzan Doordan, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the market.
Pahl and her husband, Les, started selling at the Towson market in its first year. Three years after her husband's death, Pahl, 48, continues to sell at four markets in the area.
She learned a lot about farming, she said, and has had a lot of help from her in-laws, who represent the fourth generation of farmers in their family, and from her four children.
After years of involvement with several markets, Pahl has the preparation down to a routine. For Towson's Thursday market, Pahl usually spends Wednesdays on her 140-acre farm picking and preparing the beets, Swiss chard and radishes, and packaging and washing tomatoes and berries.
Pahl gets up at 6 a.m. the day of the market to ensure that everything is ready for sale. Two white panel trucks are loaded with her products. If someone can help prepare and deliver the berries to her market table later, Pahl will pick berries in the morning so they are fresh.
After a period of a lot of rain, she explained, "you don't want to pick the berries and hold them, even overnight."
On her way, Pahl makes a brief stop at the family's produce stand across from Sudbrook Magnet Middle School, where refrigerators hold more produce for her to load into the trucks. Then, Pahl is Towson-bound.
The market officially opens on Allegheny Avenue between Washington Avenue and York Road at 10:45 a.m. with the sound of a bell rung by Doordan. Pahl and the 14 other vendors sell their fruits, vegetables and flowers until 3 p.m., when the streets are reopened.
The market's size is generally the same every year, Doordan said. There's a waiting list for vendors, but most farmers come back year after year because they enjoy the atmosphere, and the profits.
Joan Schulz, administrator for the farmers' market nutrition program of the Maryland Department of Agriculture, said Towson has one of the larger markets in the area, but its location in the heart of the county seat gives it a community feel.
"It's a very nice market, a very positive experience," Schulz said. "The fact that the location is a closed-off street gives it a festive atmosphere."
For Pahl, the most important part of the market is her interaction with customers, fellow vendors and store owners.
"You see the people for five months, four months, whenever the market goes on, every week, and you get to know even just the businesses that are around," Pahl said. "It's just a nice community market."
The Towson Farmers' Market, in its 27th season, runs from 10:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays until Nov. 2. Allegheny Avenue closes between Washington Avenue and York Road at 10 a.m. on market days.