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To Market, To Market: Cheverly

Market manager Crystal Lal; Emma Dudley of C & E Farm in Glenn Dale; Cheverly Mayor Mike Callahan. (Bonnie S. Benwick)

Cheverly may be the town that Starbucks forgot*, but folks there do have a place to grab a cup of hot coffee and a pastry, sit in the shade and even listen to live music as they read the paper: at the Saturday morning farmers market.

It’s a biweekly market with tablecloth-clad tables and plenty of seating; a kids’ reading session courtesy of the Cheverly Parents Resource Center; and a VIP cleanup crew. How neighborly is that?

“We’re filling a void,” says market manager Crystal Lal. “It has become a social hub.”

Although the town provided the market space for free – in a tree-lined corner of the Cheverly Community Center parking lot -- Lal has pretty much built up the market with no more than a flyer of do’s and don’ts from the state of Maryland. She searched for Prince George’s County growers and filled in with vendors who would help provide a one-stop shopping experience.

That’s why you’ll find oysters, $12 per dozen, from Circle C Oyster Ranchers Association in Ridge (“so big we call ’em ‘oysteers,’ says seafood farmer Richard Pelz of St. Mary’s County). Stan Feder sells his terrific fresh Simply Sausage, made in Landover. Joan Nunn sells her son’s flavored cheddars and gouda, Eve’s Cheese, from a Kent County farm, run by John Nunn III and Tom Mason.

A creation from Cookies to Cocktails. (Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

C & E Farm of Glenn Dale grows pick-your-own produce without chemicals and has sold at the Cheverly market since it opened. A gallon-size bag of purslane ($3) comes with free recipes. Shlagel Farms of Waldorf turns some of the fruit it grows into ciders in peach, strawberry, cherry-apple, blackberry and peach (32 ounces, $5). Liz Esposito brings samples of the fanciful cakes she makes for her Cookies to Cocktails baking business. Her apple pie pops ($1.50) each are tender bites.

And here’s a bit of farmers market trivia: Cheverly's was the first one in the state to feature a local winery. On the Saturday I went, I tasted a smooth malbec from Running Hare Vineyard in Prince Frederick.

The kids’ reading session always has some tie-in to the market, Lal says: After they heard “The Giant Jam Sandwich” recently, for example, they snacked on bread and jam from Martha’s Jams, made in Cheverly.

The support Lal and the market vendors get is golden. Mayor Mike Callahan and a rotating crew of volunteers arrive at 7 a.m. to unload the trucks and set up booths. And they take it all down and pack up at noon.

“Crystal called me and said this was the way we could help,” Callahan said as he walked a folded table up to a storage spot in the community center. “We’ve got about 60 people on a distro list. Even though I wrote, ‘Come take a sauna’ on this morning’s e-mail, we had 10 volunteers.”

Downright neighborly.

-- Bonnie S. Benwick

Check the Cheverly Community Market Web site for the alternating dates of operation. (The alternating Saturday schedule works better for small-business owners.) Hours: 8 a.m. to noon. 6401 Forest Rd., Cheverly.

* Currently free of franchise coffee shops, is right.

By The Food Section  |  July 29, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  To Market, To Market  | Tags: Bonnie S. Benwick, To Market  
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