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Fruits of their labors

Second in a series about Tri-State Farmers markets

Second in a series about Tri-State Farmers markets

July 31, 2002

kevinc@herald-mail.com

Bill Pechumer is bathed in the shade of a tree on the Fairfax Street median, smile on his face and produce on the brain.

Before him are the fruits of his labors, eight awnings side by side providing relief from the Sunday morning heat blazing on the brick-lined street.

Open scarcely longer than 10 minutes, the Berkeley Springs, W.Va., Farmers Market is hotter than the still-rising sun, and well on its way to a third consecutive weekend of strong, steady pedestrian traffic.

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As Market Master, Pechumer lords over the proceedings, ringing a small cow bell at its open and close, chatting up passersby. Occasionally, he ventures forth to explain to some visitors that sorry, no dogs are allowed near the produce.

"This is what the people want," he says, referring to the array of fruits on the tables. "And it's all fresh."

For five years, since lack of interest quelled it, Berkeley Springs has been farmers market-less. Last fall, rumblings of beginning again set the wheels in motion for a new market.

Having debuted July 7, the market aims to fill a lazy Sunday niche for residents and tourists alike. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when Pechumer rings his bell, all manner of fresh flowers, plump blueberries, peaches and baked goods are available for public consumption.

"Because we're a tourist community, Sunday morning they're having breakfast and getting ready to leave for home and it gives them another option for things to do in Berkeley Springs on the weekend," says Tom Walker, West Virginia University Agricultural Agent for Morgan County.

"If we have a market, people can come here, buy some produce and take it back to the cities with them."

Averaging a few hundred visitors each weekend, the market has nearly doubled its number of vendors from four to seven, with an eventual goal of 20. The market will continue for 16 weeks until Sunday, Oct. 6.

A goal is to lure visitors from Berkeley Springs State Park across Washington Street to sample the wares. A series of themed days are intended to provide an additional boost to attendance. Opening day, for instance, was billed as a Kids Day and Pechumer says it attracted about 600 visitors during the four-hour market.

Behind the register of their stand, Mark Glascock and Laura Hendershot of Glascock's Produce in Berkeley Springs serve a steady stream of customers.

Many mingle around a table obscured by dozens of plump peaches. Several ask about what's not available on this morning, beans and tomatoes and corn are hotly anticipated. Glascock assures those who ask that when ready, there will be corn and beans available in abundance.

Already used to operating a stand on Fridays and Saturdays, Hendershot says the Sunday market is an added bonus. Besides, fresh, home grown produce can't be beaten.

"(I enjoy) seeing new people and everybody gets to know who you are," she says. "And they know you work hard. They can tell just by looking at your stand that you're not fooling around, you're working."

Decked out in jeans, a colorful smock announcing his position as Market Master and an altogether appropriate straw hat, Pechumer marvels at the response the fledgling market has attracted.

Shortly before he rings the opening bell, a small crowd emerges to examine peaches and inquire about free samples of peach bread and chocolate zucchini bread.

"For it to have grown as it has, this is only our third week, is very nice," he says. "It is beyond our expectations."




If you go:



Berkeley Springs Farmers Market


Sundays through Oct. 6

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Fairfax and Washington streets

Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

In Jefferson County, W.Va.


Shepherdstown

Sundays

Behind the library

9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Wednesdays at BB&T

4 to 7 p.m.

Bolivar


Harpers Ferry Junior High

Saturdays

10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Peter Burr Farm


W.Va. 9 near Bardane Industrial Park

Saturdays

9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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