Willing to take a look?

Though often hidebound by tradition, it sometimes benefits to stand back – to get a closer look…

The Berlin MD Farmers’ Market has been a focus of my interest for many years. From the day, ten years ago, Tom Patton walked into our ice cream shop asking if I would ‘take over’ the job of Market Master – through today – though no longer officially involved, I’ve been devoted to our area farmers and the ever-growing community of people that they serve.

Our Market is prosperous…basically; our area growers are able to serve several hundred regular ‘consumers’ each week. And, with recent change in hours for the Wednesday market (2-6pm), adding after-work shopping convenience for local workers, those numbers continue to grow. A facebook page – Berlin Farmers Market, Berlin MD, offering interactive, current information also enjoys increasing popularity.

Yet, limitations remain… The downtown, wedge shaped, parking lot is small. Vendors have been denied admittance on Fridays due to lack of space. This location, with its absence of convenient parking, further demonstrates that space problem. With the advent of a new restaurant across the street, it shall get worse. Additionally, the twice-weekly Market continually creates a thorny issue for those folks who work downtown – on two of five workdays they must find alternative parking.

Furthermore, many vendors interested in joining, cannot, due to local Worcester County Health Department rules requiring water for hand-washing stations and such. The regulations are restrictive and very clear. Vendors offering prepared foods such as ice cream, fresh-made cheeses, etc. (already prepared in an approved kitchen) cannot join. And, until recently, when a Port-a-Potty was temporarily installed, vendors often had to resort to begging use of restrooms in shops throughout the town.

It’s apparent that these issues are not going to go away, but will, in fact, increase as our town grows – along with those attending, economic issues which affect us all.

What can we do? Herein lies ‘the look’ of which I wrote earlier.

We need to seek a new location. I propose something just north of our downtown district; at those underdeveloped, somewhat unattractive, town entrances – even closer by the ‘feeder’ highways; something large enough upon which to erect a year-round cover; have running water numberswiki.com

and restrooms with a pole barn perhaps – beneath which, vendors and customers can meet to transact business during inclement weather.

Driving around I have identified three locations – near enough to the downtown area to bike and yet convenient to highways – U.S. Route 50 and Rt. 113. A location near Rt. 346 – Old Ocean City Blvd, would be ideal. The Town currently owns the old Raynes property – which already has that aforementioned building. Then, there is the ‘LaHa’ property…a one-acre, weedy mess with a rapidly deteriorating structure. Finally, there is the old Tyson plant overflow parking area beside the railroad tracks – definitely large enough to handle a growing market.

Considering a more convenient, larger Berlin Farmers’ Market location is important and brings forth thoughts of benefit…we all eat; most of us, three times a day!

Our area growers and consumers will have a permanent, more centered location. With the advent of the ‘high tunnel’, providing a longer growing season, many local farmers are able to offer fresh, local product months earlier and seasonally later than just a few years ago. The traditional, Eastern Shore grown, ‘4th of July ready’ tomato was available at our Market on May 14th- just a few, to be sure, but there! Local grower availability also means less shipping…those costs that currently increase the price of every product! (Personally, lettuce grown in Pittsville trumps California lettuce every time!)

Another economic consideration – one that’s sure to please the Berlin MD Town Government financial folks, is that increased space will draw expanded variety vendors while attracting a wider consumer audience to the area = equaling more revenue! More important even, Berlin MD finds its place at the forefront of today’s ‘Farm to Table’ economic thrust. (Seems to me that we may be heading back (wisely) to that old ‘agrarian’ economy.)

Finally, dear to me as a cook, is the fact that the goods I purchase locally are FRESH – offered within hours of picking – insuring little to no loss of vital nutrients – offering ‘best value’ for every food dollar spent. No mean feat today!

With this blog I invite our Town Government and the Berlin Chamber of Commerce to take a look…and not be hidebound!

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