Wednesday, 19 September 2012 12:18

Farmer Jay Marshall assists customers every Saturday at the Dundalk Farmers Market. photo by Michael Rodman

Push for local food benefits area farmers

by Nicole Rodman

Across the nation, the popularity of farmers markets has hit an all-time high.
    Increasingly, Americans want to know more about what they are eating, including where and how their food was produced.
    According to recently-released U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, the number of direct-sale markets (such as farmers markets) grew 9.6 percent last year.
    The number of farmers markets currently registered with the USDA is now 7,864, up from 1,744 just 18 years ago.
    At the Dundalk Farmers Market, this trend has benefited the farmers who gather each week to sell their goods.
    Held in the Dundalk Village Shopping Center each Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon, the Dundalk Farmers Market is coordinated by community activist Lil Tirschman.
    A familar name to Eagle readers, Tirschman is a member of the Dundalk Heritage Parade Committee and coordinator of the annual Dundalk St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
    The respect that each farmer at the market holds for Tirschman was evident last Saturday as she was greeted warmly by each vendor.
    Going around to each table at the market, Tirschman introduced each farmer, complementing them and their produce.
    One of Tirschman’s vendors is beekeeper Ed Lindemann of Lindemann’s Apiary.
    Lindemann keeps a large man-made honeybee hive at his farm in Carroll County. Each hive contains 10 frames consisting of honey-filled beeswax combs.
    When harvesting the honey, Lindemann pulls out the frames, placing them in a machine called an extractor.
    The extractor spins the frame, allowing all of the honey to flow from the combs into a waiting funnel.
    Honey is then funneled into waiting jars, completing the production process.
    According to Lindemann, currently the bees are storing honey for the winter while the queen lays fewer eggs in preparation for hibernation.
    While Ed keeps the hives and harvests the honey, his wife uses it to make a number of products, including honey soap and muffins.
    She also makes her own jams, jellies and relishes, all sold at Lindemann’s stand.
    According to Lindemann, originally from Edgemere, he got started with the Dundalk Farmers Market through Edgemere farmer Bud Baugher of Baugher’s Farm.
    As Lindemann recalled last Saturday, he used to come to the market with Baugher every Saturday until he got a spot of his own.
    Calling Baugher his “mentor,” Lindemann noted, “He took me under his wing, almost like a dad.”
    Reflecting on his years at the market, Lindemann noted that there has been an increase in customers this year.
    He attributes this to the “locavore” movement in which consumers are trying to eat food produced locally for health and environmental reasons.
    As Lindemann explained of the new trend, “it’s neat because customers can talk to who is producing [their food]. You can’t ask questions in a store; people won’t know.”
    For her part, fellow farmer Candace Lohr agrees, noting that farmers markets allow customers “to put a face to the product.”
    Lohr and her husband, Darryl, help run Lohr’s Orchard in Churchville.
    Each Saturday, Lohr and her crew set up at the Dundalk Farmers Market, offering a wide selection of fruits and vegetables.
    Lohr and her husband met at a farm in Edgewood and got married in 2007. They began selling at the Dundalk Farmers Market  the following year.
    At their farm in Churchville, the Lohrs use conventional processes and chemicals, though they only use as much as is needed.
    “Even organic [farms] use chemicals; they are just natural chemicals,” Lohr noted. “Without chemicals, the fruit just falls off and rots.”
    Explaining that there are numerous laws in place regarding chemical use in agriculture, Lohr explained, “Today’s chemicals are safer and more regulated.”
    As for business, while Lohr called the economy “kind of flat,” she noted that this year was “a pretty good year.”
    “Food is something people have to consume,” Lohr explained, adding, “We try to keep our prices low; we’re content with what we make.”
    At Windlass Run Farm in White Marsh, Cathy Hewitt and her family raise chickens, livestock and turkeys, as well as growing some produce.
    She keeps both hens for laying eggs as well as broiler chickens to sell for meat.
    Each Saturday, Hewitt sells meat, eggs and produce at the Dundalk Farmers Market.
    As Hewitt explained, her chickens are all pastured, having a pen the size of Veterans Park to roam in. She does not let them roam free-range for fear of losing chickens to nearby foxes.
    Already, Hewitt noted, she has lost about 50 chickens this year to foxes, despite careful measures.
    According to Hewitt, while both her egg-laying and broiler chickens are allowed to roam, most grocery store eggs and meat come from stationary chickens.
    While the pastured chickens are allowed to eat more freely, the tightly restricted conditions of most large-scale poultry operations mean those hens get less to eat.
    As such, the yolks in grocery store eggs are usually darker yellow than those laid by free-range chickens.
    As Hewitt noted, however, this summer’s record heat has kept her chickens inside their coops more than usual, resulting in darker yolks.
    According to Hewitt, her beef and turkey is also pasture-raised and grass-fed, resulting in what she calls “more flavorful meat than in grocery stores.”
    At Jay Marshall’s farm in Monkton, Md., a wide variety of produce is grown for sale to consumers across the state.
    Each week, Marshall brings his fresh fruits and vegetables to the Dundalk Farmers Market.
    According to Marshall, while he uses some chemicals, he only uses what is absolutely necessary.
    Noting that “business has been good” this year, Marshall attributed the market’s success to Tirschman, calling her “a great market manager who does a lot for us.”
    One of the longest-running vendors at the Dundalk Farmers Market is Andrew West of West Farm.
    Located at North Point Road and Miller’s Island Road, West’s farm has been in operation for 73 years.
    Selling a variety of locally-grown produce, West has been setting up at the Dundalk Farmers Market for more years than he can remember.
    According to West, customers shop at the farmers market, rather than conventional grocery stores, to “buy local produce and to know where it came from.”   
    For consumers interested in learning more about not only what they are eating but where it came from, shopping at the Dundalk Farmers Market is a way to put a face with the food they are consuming.
    In addition, buying more locally-grown food cuts down on the environmental pollution caused by transporting produce long distances.
    For more information on the Dundalk Farmers Market, visit the market at the Dundalk Village Shopping Center each Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon.