Farmers Markets

Meat and Dairy Additions Meet One-Stop-Shopping Demands

By Walter Nicholls
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Peggy Campanella, manager of the Hyattsville Farmers Market, wants to make her weekly roster of farmers larger and more diverse but faces an uphill battle. This season, as she prepares to open on June 17, she has eight or nine farmers who will come every Tuesday from 2 to 6 p.m. But because of hefty increases in the cost of fuel and competition from other markets, she can't lure the types of vendors she really wants.

"Right now, we're no-nonsense. We have fruits and vegetables and some baked goods," says Campanella, who is also co-owner of Harris Orchard in Jug Bay. "But I'd love to have a creamery and meats and more organic produce."

She's not alone. As the number of farmers markets continues to grow -- there are 211 in the District, Maryland and Virginia, up from 126 a decade ago -- market managers are hearing from customers who love the Honeycrisp apples and freshly picked kale but also want a nice pork chop and chunk of cheese.

"People are treating their trip to the farmers market as one-stop shopping," says Bernadine Prince, co-director of the six FreshFarm markets in the Washington area. At the Dupont Circle location, shoppers can stock up on choice cuts of pork, beef, lamb, chicken and bison from seven producers, cheese or yogurt from four producers. For the first time in more than a year, a new dairy is selling milk. (It's always good to arrive early for the best selection.)

At the year-round Arlington market, sponsor George Parish recently signed up J-Wen Farms of Harrisonville, Pa., to sell whole milk and eggs, as well as Cibola Farms in Culpeper, Va., which sells bison meat and free-range pork products at seven other markets. "We'd like even more. But there is only so much space," Parish says.

Loudoun County agricultural marketing manager Melissa Piper Nelson would like to increase meat and dairy offerings as well. "Everybody is clamoring for pasture-raised meats, free-range eggs and any type of product that's produced without pesticides, antibiotics and hormones," Nelson says.

Still, don't expect to find a meat and dairy stand at every market. Health department rules vary from county to county. Farmers tend to choose markets in areas where the oversight is not overbearing.

"In one county you pay $50 a year for a license and in another, $150 every two weeks," says Jane Storrs, director of national marketing services for the Maryland Department of Agriculture. With never-ending chores on any farm and long commutes to city markets, time is valuable to farmers. "And for them, in the end, it's a lot of paperwork."

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