By Anjali Ravi
The arrival of summer is bringing more fresh produce and other items to farmers markets in Prince George’s County. On May 28, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks lifted the county’s stay-at-home order, allowing farmers markets to operate with restrictions. According to a notice from the Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement, vendors and workers must wear masks and gloves, and follow social distancing guidelines. Permits require clean, vending areas with appropriate spacing and hand sanitizing stations. Many items for sale are prepackaged, so customers can get what they need without lingering.
Hollywood Market opened on May 2 with drive-through service only. Customers pre-ordered from vendors, and upon arrival at the market, they opened the trunks of their cars so that vendors could place items inside. Offerings included red apples from Sharrah Orchards, Guatemalan coffee beans from Alcoba Coffee, and naturally raised beef, pork, and lamb from the Waltz Family Farm.
College Park Farmers Market at Paint Branch Parkway (CPFMPBP) also opened on May 2. Located at 5211 Campus Drive, this market was established in 1979. Phil Miller, of Miller Farms, has been there since its inception. Miller Farms is family-owned, offers fruits, vegetables, pies, bacon, firewood and flowers. Miller’s sister currently manages the nursery, and his wife runs the bakery and makes seasonal soft serve ice cream. Millers’ two sons help out on the farm.
On July 20, the Hollywood Market opened for its first walk-through vending of the season. Julie Beavers, market manager, claimed it a success. “Vendors are loving this new layout and prefer to have their customers shop during the market more so than online,” Beavers wrote in an email. Beavers added that it will take time for patrons to adjust to social distancing guidelines in the market. “We’ll help by drawing arrows on the ground,” she wrote.
With high levels of personal interactions, these markets create community. Miller recognizes his regulars even through their facemasks, calling to them by name. Noting social distancing signs posted around the markets, people chat with each other from afar.
“I try to encourage contactless payments,” said vendor Katie Cote, who has been selling jewelry at CPFMPBP to aid women in Haiti. Her shop, While Waiting, also offers hair accessories, tea infusers, wine charms and bookmarks. “I have a lot of one-of-a-kind items that people used to like to dig through to find what they wanted. Now I only set out a select few, and in a way that people don’t need to touch before they buy.” Cote has been selling more hair accessories. The market is currently her only opportunity to sell items in person.
Adapting to new market concerns is the nature of small business. Joe Castillo, of Alcoba Coffee at the Hollywood Market, said that his business has been doing well, noting, “people are drinking more coffee from home.”
To support local farms and businesses, shop at one of College Park’s farmers markets. Both are now open each Saturday. Hollywood Market’s hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and CPFMPBP is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.