by Lisa Lozano
Every Friday, we’re letting you know what is fresh and in season in a different part of the U.S. by spotlighting a unique regional farmers market.
This week, we’re dishing with Amy Crone, Executive Director of the Maryland Farmers Market Association, to discuss what makes her area unique and learn about her state’s flagship market, the Baltimore Farmers Market & Bazaar. Read on for our conversation.
What’s in season right now at your market?
A lot of berries and a lot of spring-into-summer crops. Things like garlic scapes, peas and asparagus are on their way out, but we’re also already starting to see some early tomatoes and even a few peppers.
What sets your market apart?
What makes the [Baltimore Farmers Market & Bazaar] unique is, first and foremost, it’s the largest market in Maryland and also, it just showcases all of the wonderful things that are on offer [in the area]. Not only crops but also arts and crafts, locally produced food and ready-to-eat items as well.
What are some of the unique challenges that farmers in your area face?
Farmers in our area are faced with the unique challenges of the close proximity to the Chesapeake Bay. So, in our area, we have a lot of issues relating to the health of the bay. Farmers need to make sure to be conscientious about what fertilizers they use and other things that may affect the watershed to ensure that the food, of course, is the healthiest possible, but also ensuring that our bay remains healthy.
Can you talk about the seafood at the market?
We have lots of seafood. One thing that’s in season that’s really exciting is soft-shell crab, which is a very unique Maryland item. When crabs are growing, they slough their shells off. So they get rid of their hard shell and they are soft for a couple of weeks while they develop their new, larger hard blue crab shell that you think of.
[In terms of seafood], we also have a big industry of agriculture developing in and around the bay. We have oyster farms and all sorts of interesting farms popping up, [like] shrimp farms as well. Folks are trying to make sure we have sustainable food sources and not depleting the bay and all that seafood out of that ecosystem and changing the balance there.
What advice would you give to a shopper shopping at a farmers market for the first time?
First and foremost you should walk all the way through the market before you buy anything at all. Get a good sense of what everyone has and what everyone’s charging for what they have so you can pick the thing that is most interesting or that appeals to you most, at the right price point. So there may be four farmers that have tomatoes, but maybe only one of those farmers has an heirloom variety that none of the others have, and that would be a really great fit for your tomato, basil and mozzarella appetizer.
Amy also talked about her state’s federal nutrition benefit matching program, available at 20 farmers market locations throughout Maryland, that matches SNAP funds in order to give SNAP recipients more buying power at the markets. For more information on all of Maryland’s farmers markets, click here, and for more about the Baltimore Farmers Market & Bazaar, click here.
Check out our most recent farmers market profiles:
Photos courtesy: Mark L.