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Farmers Market charms locals, visitors

By Staff | Apr 24, 2009

The stand Rivas Salsas De Mexico has been operating at the Shepherdstown Farm Market since 2004. Angie Jimenez — pictured with her daughter Cynthia — runs the stand. Photo By Samantha Zurbuch/Chronicle

Sunday, April 19, the second showing of the Shepherdstown Farmers Market this season, King Street was bustling on a gorgeous sunny spring day. Both familiar and new faces were to be found for the regulars this Sunday. Most of the vendors, however, are well seasoned market providers.

Maura and Allan Balliett offer a variety of produce through the Fresh and Local CSA co-op, which they have been operating for about 10 years. The CSA farmer’s market stand was nearly sold out as the noon hour approached. Business was good, with more customers streaming on through. Maura Balliett spoke of the large region that her CSA provides produce to through their annual sale of produce shares from their farm. Shareholders receive regular produce deliveries throughout the season. She added that most of CSA is in the Maryland, D.C. and Arlington areas, while there are several shareholding families in the Shepherdstown area as well.

First time visitor Lee Ann Witt, of Mt. Airy, Md., was in town with a friend from Silver Spring. Witt described the market as “A Warm atmosphere with a diversity of very useful and different products, plants, and consumables available.” She also added that she enjoyed the overall warmth of the people.

Seasoned market vendor Megan Webber, who also sells at the Charles Town Saturday farmer’s market, has been selling on Sundays in Shepherdstown for a decade now. She offers cut flowers, herbs, and various vegetable plants that are in season. All of her produce comes from her Sharpsburg, Md., Farm, which is completely free of pesticides. Webber expressed her appreciation for the town atmosphere of Shepherdstown.

She pointed out that “[here] people like to hang out, and that’s special.” Whereas, she added, at Charles Town’s market people have more of a tendency to buy what they need and get going. The community vibe truly sets Shepherdstown’s market apart, she said. Webber also stressed that “the musicians are key, nodding over to Dan Cronin, who was strumming his guitar and singing friendly tunes just to the left of her stand, among various new and old adoring fans. The only thing that Megan said she would like to add to the market would be more available space to be able to be filled.

The Peace in the Valley stand, operated by James Foltz, who helped originate the market, provide herbs of all kinds, from basic to the most hard to find, explained the vendors. For example, they offer 12 varieties of basil, including the ever-sought after “holy basil” and 12 varieties of thyme. Peace in the Valley worker Brian Mann emphasized how this growing season is much different from past seasons in that seeds are running out, due to people growing more. He also said how packed a bee class in Kearneysville was this year, compared to past years. Bees are key to good pollination, and always vital for these growers’ survival. “Everybody is so friendly and willing to help and share with each other. They’re not competitive, and it’s a place for people to come together,” Mann said as he summed up his thoughts on the market.

First-time market goer Odessa Aguinal was traveling with a friend when they spotted the market. They stopped just to check it out. Aguinal beamed “It’s nice to see a farmer’s market in a small town. We were on the way to Baltimore and we stopped just to check it out.”

The stand Rivas Salsas De Mexico has been operating at the market since 2004. They got their start up at the Shepherdstown Post Office, by setting up there on Sundays, and eventually made it down the street to have their very own market stand. The Rivas name came from owner Angie Jimenez’s old family name. Angie was hanging out staying cool under their salsa stand’s tent with her daughter Cynthia.

Gregorio Lacerda had many fresh original treats to offer his customers this Sunday. Among them were Brazil nuts, which come straight from a Brazilian family, fresh juice, and a special “Sweet Brazil Brazilian nuts Orange Butter” spread. Gregorio was chatting it up with passerbyers and enjoying the company of his helpers and friends Brian and Thanom.

Musician Dan Cronin, the resident guitarist this week, has played “two or three times” at the market before, but has clearly got a good feel for its essence. As a man who enjoys all that Shepherdstown has to offer, calling it “his home away from home,” he describes town as “open-minded and flexible.” Cronin loves playing at the Mecklenburg and Blue Moon, and is likely to return again soon.

Set up in lawn chairs adjacent to Cronin were market visitor Ralph and Paula Horley from Sharpsburg. Ralph used to work with Dan, so they came to check out his music for the day. Last year the Horleys made it up to the market twice. Paula commended that of all in the market she “likes the people the best.” Ralph added his thoughts on a nice addition by pointing out that “Someone oughta sell drinks.”