• Story by Michael Valliant | Photos by Caroline J.

Farmers Markets of the Shore

Buying fresh produce, eggs and baked goods from local farmers and artisans is easy at a local farmers market, where people also gather for music, camaraderie and a sense of connection to people who produce their food.

The weekly markets are held Saturday mornings in Easton and St. Michaels, Thursdays on Kent Island, and Wednesdays in Denton. At each of these locations, farmers, artisans, locals, and tourists come together for food and community.

The St. Michaels Farmers Market is entering its 20th year. After a positive history under FreshFarm Markets, the St. Michaels Market is now an independent, community organization led by a dedicated board of directors. The market operates in affiliation with Maryland Farmers Market Association, a nonprofit that connects people with Maryland farmers markets and provides resources to market managers, farmers and consumers. This season, the St. Michaels Farmers Market is being managed by Amanda Rzepkowski who brings to the position a background in farming, nutrition education and event management.

Elizabeth Beggins, a longstanding local food advocate and current production manager with Chesapeake Harvest has been associated with the St. Michaels Market since its inception. She knows the benefits of shopping at local farmers markets.

“Aside from the delicious foods, markets have the potential to be rich sources of community connection and education,” Beggins said. “The St. Michaels Farmers Market has a 20-year history of vetting its vendors, making sure they operate under producer-only guidelines, meaning they can only sell what they grow or produce themselves. We like to say we’re positively local.”

The St. Michaels Farmers Market is held 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. each Saturday from April to November, at 204 S. Talbot St. in St. Michaels.

Easton’s Farmers Market is held 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through December 15, in the parking lot of the 100 block of North Harrison Street. It’s been going on in some fashion for more than 35 years. The market is run by the Avalon Foundation and coordinated by Marie Nuthall. With great farmers, artisans and vendors, and live music from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., it’s a community party each week.

“We hope that people come to the market and have an immersive experience,” Nuthall said. “We want them to stroll through with their families and dogs, engage with the vendors, reconnect with old friends and make new ones, enjoy the live music, sip a latte, buy what they need for their dinner, a bouquet to brighten a room or a gift for a special someone.”

Easton’s farmers market offers a diverse mix of local goods, such as seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs, fresh eggs and cheese, artisanal bread, rolls, and muffins, dog treats, nature photography, locally-crafted kombucha, handcrafted jewelry and locally distilled rum.

“The food you’re buying is fresh, real food that is locally sourced, and every dollar spent stays in our community,” Nuthall said. “The Eastern Shore has a long agricultural and watermen history, and shopping the farmers market is a great way to connect to that tradition.”

The Kent Island Farmers Market will turn seven in October. It was founded and is run by Diane Bedlin, who wanted to know more about local farms and the origin of the food that ends up in markets. She found that Maryland is ranked sixth in the country in terms of loss of farmland. She wanted to help stop that, and the farmers market seemed like a way she could help.

“Many farmers aren’t large enough to wholesale and really need a retail outlet,” Bedlin said.

“And it has kind of turned into a mini food-hub—we try to make it a venue not just for customers, but also for restaurants needing things. I like to be a conduit for small businesses.”

Bedlin has witnessed a cultural shift in awareness since she started talking to customers.

“More and more people are starting to want to know where their food comes from,” she said.

“Setting up local food markets and a food shed is going to be something that has a huge impact in a short time. We are so disconnected from our food source now, when you can look your farmer in the eye, it makes a difference.”

The Kent Island Farmers Market is open 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays year-round at Christ Church, 830 Romancoke Road, Stevensville.

The Denton Farmers Market is coordinated by Holly Foster, who first co-founded and ran Chapel’s Country Creamery in Easton for 13 years before she sold the farm and the business in 2017. She understands the farmer’s side of the local markets, because she spent years talking to customers about and selling cheese and local food. She is now community outreach coordinator for Shore Gourmet at Chesapeake Culinary Arts Center and hunger coordinator for Caroline County.

“From owning a business that was a part of farmers markets, I know the importance of connecting directly with customers,” Foster said. “And I want to communicate to the customers the impact of buying directly from a farmer, supporting local businesses so that money stays in our community.”

The Denton Farmers Market is held 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays through fall at Chesapeake Culinary Arts Center at 512 Franklin Street in Denton. Regular offerings include seasonal fruits and vegetables, micro greens, mushrooms, seafood, pastured pork and grass-fed beef. Shore Gourmet’s popular weekly dinners also are available on Wednesdays. The market is working with Caroline County Arts Council to schedule performers. For Foster and the Denton market, it is about more than just a sales transaction.

“A farmers market is a place where there is a passing of the passion from the seller to the buyer, you can see people getting excited to talk about and share what they love,” Foster said. “That’s one of the things that makes it so cool.”

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