With a bushel of tomatoes, a peck of beans and bunches of people, the first new farmer's market to open in years in Montgomery County was launched last week in the parking lot of the Silver Spring armory.
Eight local farmers sold corn, cantalopes, peaches, string beans and other vegetables from the backs of pick-up trucks and station-wagons to an estimated 2,500 people in the early morning heat.
By the time County Executive James P. Gleason got up to give the proceedings his official blessings, five or the eight farmers had sold all their produce and gone home.
The open market, which will be open on Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. is tied in with attempts to keep small farms from being sold to home-building speculators, and to revitalize the downtown Silver Spring area.
"We're just as tickled as we canf be with the market. We're delighted by the interest shown," said Rene Johnson, the county's argicultureal resources coordination.
"The market gives small farmers an outlet for what they can produce, and as a result we hope that they won't be as interested in selling their small parcels to developers," Johnson said.
At the same time county planners hope the market will help bring shoopers back into the Silver Spring area, which has experienced declining retail revenues in recent years.
"The shopping centers like White Flint, Montgomery Mall and Tysons Corner are drawing people away from the area, and we want to bring them back," said Jim Giegerich, head of the county's economic development department.
"Silver Spring has experienced declining business in recent years, with stores moving out and not being replaced. We want people to know that the area is really very vital, and encourage them to come on in back. The alternative, is urban renewal, and we wouldn't want to wish that on anyone," he said.
Fifteen farmers had been expected to show up for the opening of the market but only eight finally appeared, Johnson said.
Those who arrived opened their tailgates at 7 in the morning, selling corn at $1.50 a dozen, squash at 25 cent a pound, tomatoes at $1 for three pounds, Johnson said.
Prices ranged above and below supermarket prices, and sometimes vararied with demand - one farmer lowered the price on corn from $1.50 per dozen to $1.25 when he thought he could move it out faster. Most farmers sold out in two hours with an average gross of $200, Johnson said.
Eventually as many as 30 farmers are expected to sell their goods in the market, which will stay open until late November and reopen after next spring's first harvest, he added.
The 1972 census showed that Silver Spring conducted 14 per cent of the county's business, with real retail sales volume of $221.8 million annually, he said.
Since then dollar grosses in nearly all categories have dropped, although specific figures will not be available until the next census is complete next year, Giegerich added.