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Hollywood Farmers Market opens as city council considers its future

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Posted on: April 11, 2024

By SHARON O’MALLEY

 

The Hollywood Farmers Market in North College Park will open for the season on April 13 as planned, despite concerns from city staff about its cost.

Assistant City Manager Bill Gardiner suggested in February that the city council consider whether spending more than $20,000 per season to keep the market afloat is worth it.

“In the big scheme of our budget, it’s not very much money,” Gardiner noted, but added, “At the same time, in terms of comparable farmers markets, it’s still unusual.”

The city is considering increasing the market’s budget to $30,000 next year for staffing, entertainment, permits and other expenses.

Gardiner said Rockville, La Plata, Bowie and Greenbelt spend “substantially less” on their farmers markets than College Park does. He suggested that the council consider pausing the market or looking into alternatives to continuing to prop it up. Suggestions from councilmembers included combining the Hollywood market with the College Park Farmers Market at the Herbert W. Wells Ice Rink, moving it to a larger location that would allow it to expand, and recruiting a produce vendor to supply a more robust selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The decade-old fresh-air market at the Hollywood Plaza Shopping Center sells meat, summer produce, crafts and baked goods every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until mid-November and is one of three markets in the city. The 45-year-old College Park Farmers Market, which is not managed by the city, will run every Saturday from April 27 until Nov. 23 from 8 am. to 1 p.m. The University of Maryland Farmers Market’s spring season began on April 3 and will end on May 8. It is open Wednesdays from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the Tawes Plaza Garden (3900 Campus Drive).

City councilmembers debated the value of the 13-vendor Hollywood market for 90 minutes during a council meeting on Feb. 20 after receiving 97 letters — mostly of support — from community members.

Many residents pointed out the four-hour-a-week market’s value to the Hollywood neighborhood for community engagement.

“Some of them are very passionate, had very strong comments and strong support for the market,” Mayor Fazlul Kabir said during the meeting. “This place is something that they really love. They want to come and see other community members.”

The market is in city District 1, which Kabir represented for 12 years as a city councilmember before becoming mayor in 2023.

Still, because of space constraints in the shopping center’s parking lot, the market is limited to about 13 vendors and does not have a major produce supplier, a constraint that curbs foot traffic.

“If the number of people who wrote to you … came, it would double the number of people who go to the market,” City Manager Kenny Young told the council. He noted that one measure of success is the number of people who visit the market each weekend.

Councilmembers suggested that market organizers recruit a greater variety of vendors so shoppers could buy plants, handmade crafts and specialty pastries like beignets; allow residents to sell produce from their own gardens; or invite student entrepreneurs from the University of Maryland to display their wares.

Councilmember John Rigg (District 3) said the city should push the market’s managers to make it self-sustaining.

“I’m a fan of this farmers market … but to continue to support it, I really need a plan,” Rigg said. “I need a plan toward sustainability for this farmers market and ideally toward self-sufficiency for this farmers market because most of the farmers markets in this area are self-sufficient. This one, unfortunately, seems to be trending in the wrong direction. … I don’t find it a judicious use of city funds if it only goes in one direction.”

Mayor Pro Tem Denise Mitchell (District 4) noted that the marketplace is a destination for residents from all parts of College Park.

“This is a citywide market,” Mitchell said. “It just happens to be in North College Park.”

Gardiner noted, “It is pretty clear council is interested in continuing the market, so we will continue the market.”

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