The market for Fall Flavor

Published 4:13 pm Monday, October 22, 2018

Western Branchers looking for everything for their perfect fall feast can find it at the Western Branch Farmers’ Market.

Okra to fry, collards to stew, herbs to season, cheeses to melt and oysters to steam for Thanksgiving dinner are all available at the farmers’ market, and market officials hope to keep it open all year long.

“People are not used to the idea of a year-round farmers’ market,” said Jill Doczi, who coordinates the market. “We’re going to look at maybe moving indoors during the really cold weather. But as often as we can set up out here, it’s better, because people see us.”

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The market is run by Kotarides Holdings, the owner of Chesapeake Square Mall. The market, which takes place in the parking lot of the mall every Sunday, is new this year and was started by the mall’s new owners to help bring a community presence.

“It has been better than expected for most people,” Doczi said. “Chesapeake has not had an independently run farmers’ market ever. I run things a little differently.”

Doczi does heavy marketing of the market on social media and elsewhere to bring people in. She also plans eventually to hold special events, such as holiday craft fairs, in conjunction with the market.

“There’s a lot of stuff we can pull out of our hats,” she said.

The market brings in a lot of people who are looking for freshness, said Bill Jenkins, who sells seafood at the market. Many people are seeking organic foods, non-GMO veggies and local fare and making other considerations on their plates, both for health and sustainability reasons.

And it tastes better, too, Jenkins said.

“A lot of folks are going for the freshness factor these days, and what better way to do that than fresh from the farm?” Jenkins said. “The taste is so much better, because it is fresh and it’s not processed. Folks go, ‘Wow! I didn’t know this was how scallops are supposed to taste.’”

Jenkins goes directly to the fishermen to get his products, he said. “You can’t beat the freshness.”

Cory Hoar of Feel Good Farms said the market has been good for them this year while presiding over a table full of fall produce like eggplants, cabbage, okra and mini-gourds. They’ve gotten a lot of community feedback, he said.

“It seems like we get new people every week that didn’t know,” he said.

Feel Good Farms has some unusual items like a heatless jalapeño, which is good for older folks, recipes like jalapeño poppers and as a “party trick pepper.”

“Unless you find the right person, they’re a hard sell,” he said of traditional jalapeños. “A lot of people are instantly turned off. I thought we could combat that with the heatless jalapeño.”

Not all of the stands at the farmers’ market sell raw food ingredients like the produce and seafood. Tracy Pae has a selection of baked goods, salsa, preserves and more featuring all ingredients she grew herself in her suburban backyard.

“They’re all family recipes,” she said. “I grow everything. I grow my own strawberries. I grow my own blueberries.”

But she enjoys the farmers’ market for a whole different reason from just selling her goods, she said.
“I really like to talk to people and just get out of the kitchen,” she said.

The market takes place from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Search for Western Branch Farmers Market on Facebook for more information.