Farmers’ Market Expands to Offer Products in Winter

By Carolynne Keenan, Contributing Writer
Customers shop at the winter market inside building 549

By Carolynne Keenan, Contributing Writer

The 2013 National Cancer Institute (NCI) at Frederick Farmers’ Market regular season may have closed, but that doesn’t mean customers who want fresh produce, handmade crafts, and other homemade goodies from local vendors are out of luck. Winter Markets, which began Jan. 7, will be held every other Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., in front of Building 549 or in the Café Room, depending on the weather.

“Winter Markets are important because you, as a consumer, can shop local all year round and support local farmers,” said Nicole Olson, owner of Two Acre Farm.

John Britt, owner of Slice of Heaven Farm, agrees. “A Winter Market gives the NCI community a chance to get out and enjoy some local items,” he said, adding that he signed up for the Winter Markets to “offer [his] farm-fresh eggs and other items during the off-season.”

He has participated in the market for four years and has enjoyed each market he’s attended. “I always enjoy participating in the NCI Holiday Markets and seeing the great customers that support the market,” he said.

An array of desserts for sale at the market

A Rich History

The Farmers’ Market started in 1998, when Donald Summers, M.D., then director at what was known as the NCI-Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, wished to establish a Farmers’ Market in Frederick like what he had seen at the Bethesda campus, explained Russ Hanson, a research associate in the Basic Science Program, Leidos Biomedical Research.

Hanson said that he was asked to become the market master—or the coordinator for the markets—with Jeannette De Lawter, who was Summers’ assistant at the time.

“As expected, the market was well received when it opened on July 28, 1998,” Hanson said.

The first market season ran from July to September. Over the years, the market began starting earlier in the season and closing later. Now, the Farmers’ Market typically runs from June to late October, often extending into November on a week-by-week basis.

The Farmers’ Market will begin its 17th season in 2014.

Hanson said that even though the initial market season was a success, “we did experience some initial growing pains.”

Originally the market allowed for competition among the vendors—so two coffee vendors would be permitted to sell their products, even though their items would be in direct competition, Hanson said. The only vendor that didn’t have competition was the seafood vendor, he added.

Holiday ornaments for sale at the market

“Unfortunately, our customer base was much smaller than the market in Bethesda,” Hanson said. “We quickly lost the seafood vendor due to insufficient sales, and all of the other vendors were expressing similar concerns. Some stability was finally achieved in the second season when we reduced the number of vendors and limited product overlap.”

Nowadays, there may be similar products offered by vendors, but for the most part there is little overlap—and little competition. This has resulted in happy vendors and customers alike.

Serina Roy, owner of Dublin Roasters Coffee, Inc., has been attending the Farmers’ Market for four years. “We come back because the customers and the vendors are so friendly,” Roy said.

Hanson stepped down as market master in 2002, and Barbara Birnman, a public affairs specialist in the NCI Office of Scientific Operations (OSO), succeeded him. When Birnman retired last year, Melissa Porter, administrative manager, NCI OSO, stepped in to fill her place.

For more information on the Farmers’ Market at NCI at Frederick, go to http://ncifrederick.cancer.gov/Programs/General/FarmersMarket/Default.aspx.

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