ROCKVILLE — The Rockville Farmers Market has opened for business, with fresh fruits, vegetables and plants.
The farmer’s market, located on Monroe Street near the County Council Office Building, opened for spring and summer on May 18. According to the City of Rockville, the market has been hosted in this location for upward of 10 years.
The market is open on Saturdays through Thanksgiving with local vendors.
The farmers market was created in 1989, according to the City of Rockville, and features foods and produce. It is a grower and producer market, meaning that shoppers will not find crafts and pottery there.
A lot of vendors return each year, according to the City of Rockville, but the city also tries to maintain variety and mix things up when possible.
For the 2019 growing season, about 29 vendors signed up to participate.
The Rockville Farmers Market is on the smaller side, but without a huge number of vendors, there is more room to walk around, and there are fewer crowds.
“I live near here, so it’s easy to get to,” said Grace Halsey, who was at the farmers market to meet a friend. “It’s small and not as crowded as some, (and) Zeke’s Coffee is my favorite.”
Madgie McGaughan of M&M Plants, is one of the vendors at the Rockville Farmers Market. She and her husband run the stand, selling plants from their Comus, Maryland farm.
The couple grows flowers, herbs, vegetable staff (for home planting) and succulents among other plants.
McGaughan said that she got involved in the City of Rockville Farmers Market when another flower seller decided to retire.
“There was a flower vendor here for many years, and he left farming and recommended me to the city,” she said.
McGaughan has been selling at the market for about five seasons.
She explained that a typical market day starts early.
“My feet are on the floor at five in the morning, and generally we pack up the plants the day before, so in the morning I just have to put the flowers on the truck,” she said.
She and her husband tackle two farmers markets on Saturdays, McGaughan explained.
“So, I take him to his market and drop off all of his stuff and just get him set up,” she said. “Then I come down here and put out the tables, unload the truck, get all my signs out and everything, and then the customers start to come in. I get to spend the next four hours talking to people about their gardens and who they’re taking flowers to. A lot of times people come back and tell me how things are doing, and that’s really fun to hear.”
She explained that when the market is over, at 1 o’clock, she packs up, picks up her husband and they head home to water the rest of the plants.
The market also partners with government support programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infant and Children Fruit & Vegetable Check Program (WIC FVC). Participants in government assistance programs can go to the farmer’s market and buy $1.00 tokens to buy fruits, vegetables and fresh bread, dairy or meat.
Bob O’Brien, who volunteers weekly at the farmer’s market assistance booth, said that people mostly use their tokens on fruits and veggies because farmer’s market meat and dairy are typically more expensive.
To make money go even farther, the Maryland Market Money program allows residents who receive any federal nutrition assistance benefits to get matching dollars when they shop at the farmer’s market.
The City of Rockville sees this partnership as a win-win situation for farmers and customers, and helps to make the market accessible to all.
Manna Food Center was created in 1983 and serves as a centralized food bank for Montgomery County. According to Manna, 16.3 percent of children in Montgomery County are food-insecure, which means that the availability of food is less than a person’s accessibility to it.
O’Brien explained that Manna Food Center also capitalizes on farmers markets as well.
At about 1 o’clock, Manna sends a refrigerated truck to pick up produce, O’Brien said.
Through Manna’s Farm to Food Bank initiative, created in 2010, the organization partners with local farms and farmers markets to supplement typical canned and boxed food donations with fresh, local produce.
“Farm to Food Bank provides fresh, locally and regionally grown produce to those experiencing hunger and food insecurity in our community by purchasing from neighboring farms throughout the growing season,” Manna wrote. “We know that supporting our local food system is an integral part of increasing food access for all residents and is essential to our goal of eliminating hunger in Montgomery County.”