BY SUSIE CURRIE — Did you miss out on getting a plot in the Hyatt Park Community Garden? Just across the street, in the parking lot of 3505 Hamilton Street, you’ll find what Southern Maryland farmer Peggy Campanella calls “the next best thing.”
If you time it right, that is. The Hyattsville Farmers Market, featuring produce from Prince George’s and neighboring counties, opened on the grounds of the former BB&T building on June 12. It will continue to operate on Tuesdays from 2 to 6 p.m. through October in this new location, two blocks east of its former digs at the Queens Chapel Town Center.
It’s the second move for the market, which opened more than 20 years ago in the parking lot of The Mall at Prince Georges. In 2005, to make room for building The Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse, it moved to the parking area behind Queens Chapel Town Center, where it remained through last season.
But this year, when it was time to renew the lease, “we were not invited back,” says Campanella, the market’s organizer and co-owner of Harris Orchard, one of several vendors there. In addition to peaches, berries, apples and other fruit, the orchard stand includes a cookbook-swap table for shoppers. Other farm stands sell corn, tomatoes, herbs, and other just-picked produce.
“We were happy to have them,” said Queens Chapel Town Center co-owner Michael Hollins. “But there was too much competition for the existing tenants. A number of the tenants had issues with the items being sold.”
Hollins declined to identify which of the market’s offerings – all from Southern Maryland – were problematic.
When Campanella spoke with city staff about other possible locations, she said, “they found a place for us within a week. They really wanted us to stay. Every city wants a farmer’s market.”
And now, more and more cities have them. Maryland has used some of its $4 billion share of the 1998 national tobacco settlement to encourage farmers to convert nearly all land used for tobacco – once the mainstay of the state’s agriculture economy – to other crops.
The money also funded “So. Maryland, So Good,” a campaign run by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission to promote farming in St. Mary’s, Charles, Calvert, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties.
The Hyattsville market, one of the oldest in the state, is restricted to farmers from that area.
“So you’re keeping it very local,” said Campanella.