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The board of the Bel Air Farmers Market has some big plans in the works when the market reopens this spring.

The market has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will allow it to process credit cards and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, for food stamp recipients.

The board is also waiting to receive a grant toward a wash station that will allow vendors to give out samples of their food and eventually have a chef who demonstrates recipes.

“Right now, we cannot prepare samples for customers to try,” said Brad Milton, president of the board, said in an interview last month. “Instead of people looking and touching the produce, they will hopefully be able to taste it as well.”

On top of the grants, the board plans to invite arts-and-crafts vendors for the fall months to encourage customers.

“It’s like an arts festival, is what we are trying to promote, not so much high-end crafts but more artsy [products],” Milton said.

Although the Saturday and Tuesday markets open April 10 and May 4, respectively, and run through November, many residents are unaware that the market is open as late as Thanksgiving, said treasurer Becky Gurley.

In the past, the market “hasn’t really been offered going up through Thanksgiving but over the past few years, several people jumped up and said they wanted to stay. I don’t think anyone officially knew we were open through Thanksgiving,” said Gurley, of Calvert’s Gift farm in Sparks, Baltimore County.

She said the extra promotion in the late fall is well needed.

“That market slows down so much in October that we are hoping to keep people’s interest,” she said. “As soon as the kids go back to school and everybody starts having soccer on the weekends, the market drops like a stone.”

Katherine Adams has stepped down as the Bel Air market’s manager, although she will remain a vendor.

The board has plans to hire an administrative assistant. The town of Bel Air’s senior planner, Bob Syphard, who is a market board member, has been helping help process vendor requests and direct people to the market’s Web site, www.belairfarmersmarket.com.

“This year we are trying to send people to the Web,” Milton said. Having one person process phone calls or requests “was sort of overwhelming, with so much attention.”

The market is self-running, with funding coming from member dues and occasional grants, Milton said.

Although the town of Bel Air does not support the market financially, the town does promote it, Milton said.

“Everybody’s looking forward to a new season. After the long, cold, snowy winter, people, I think, will be anxious to buy flowers and produce,” he added.


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