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Hagerstown's Historic City Farmers Market part of family heritage and tradition

August 17, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Councilman Don Munson, Mayor David S. Gysberts, Councilman Martin Brubaker and Councilman Lewis C. Metzner help cut and hand out cake to celebrate Hagerstown's City Market's 230th birthday Saturday.
By Colleen McGrath / Staff Photographer

Going back 64 years, Charles Green runs the longest continuous vending operation at Hagerstown’s Historic City Farmers Market, but Mitch Dodson’s connection goes back three-quarters of a century.

On Saturday, after Mayor David S. Gysberts cut a cake celebrating the market’s 230th year of continuous operation, Dodson recalled working at a nearby grocery store in the 1930s. His employer would ask him to check out what produce was going for at the market, he said.

Dodson, 91, said he got to know Isaac Baer of Paramount Meat Packers, who offered him a job at his market stall.

“Isaac Baer offered me $10 a week and, well, I was only making $6 over there,” Dodson said of the other job.

Dodson worked for Baer for a couple of years and later was in the restaurant business, but he’s been a regular at the market for decades. 

Green, 94, said he took over the Green Haven Farm stand from his parents, but could not remember how long they ran it before him.

“They came and I stayed home on the farm,” Green said. “When they got a little older, I took over, and that was in 1950.

“It’s a very friendly market. When you sell them something good, they come back.”

His parents started by selling ham and eggs, but he expanded the offerings to include beef and chickens, he said.

Margaret Pheil said she’s been in business “I would say at least 40 years” at the market. She makes and sells door decorations, refrigerator magnets, dried flowers, Christmas ornaments and other crafts.

“I used to come when I was a little girl and sleep under the stall,” said her granddaughter, Jill Munson.

Although the market was packed Saturday morning, Pheil remembered a time when vendors occupied the entire building on West Church Street, which now shares space with the administrative offices of the Hagerstown Fire Department.

“Once the supermarkets came in, they knocked a lot of things out,” Pheil said.

“The first county markets were the Walmarts and supermarkets of their day,” Hagerstown City Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said.

“In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the necessities of daily life” that were provided by the Hagerstown City Farmers Market, Gysberts told those at the market who were there either to mark the anniversary or just do some shopping. “In the 20th century, it became more of an opportunity to get to know your neighbor or meet new friends.

“Today, it’s about family. Your family. The market family. Our community family.”

City Market, which opened on Public Square on Aug. 20, 1783, pre-dates the actual incorporation of Hagerstown, said Gaela Shoop, the city’s market and event assistant. Back then, it was known as Elizabeth-Town, she said.

The market later moved to City Hall, but later outgrew that venue. It has been in its current building for 84 years, Shoop said.

“I’m proud of being part of the heritage and to provide good nutrition for friends and family,” said Beverly Bingaman of Bingaman’s Greenhouse & Produce. “Local food tastes better and is better for you.”

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