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Cecil County Life

The Perryville Farmers Market

Jun 01, 2016 12:26PM ● By Richard Gaw

John Miller sells his popular Thunder Ridge Kettle Corn.

Lisa Fieldman

Every Friday from May through October, the town of Perryville holds a farmers market in picturesque Lower Ferry Park. Vendors start setting up their stands for the market’s opening at 3 p.m., and shoppers select farm-fresh produce, eggs, baked goods, and many other offerings until the market closes at 7 p.m.

Stop by for some delicious Comfort Zone Cookies.

 Amanda Hickman, Perryville’s economic development coordinator, said, “We like the time slot. It allows people to stop by and do their shopping on their way home from work.”

Located along the Susquehanna River, the market is a nice place to browse and stock up on provisions for the weekend. All the products must be locally grown or sourced. “We do not allow vendors who are re-sellers,” Hickman said. “All the goods have to be produced locally by the vendor.”

New to the market this year is Thunder Ridge Kettle Corn. John and Theresa Miller were traveling through North Carolina when they saw a roadside kettle corn stand. Theresa asked John if he had ever tried kettle corn, and when he said he had not, she insisted they stop.

“We waited in a long line,” said John, and it was love at first bite. He found the sweet and salty popcorn so delicious that he wanted to share it with other people. He started looking for equipment to start his own kettle corn business. In 2010, bought his set-up from a seller in Charlotte, N.C.

A display of jams, salsas, hot sauces and jellies produced by FCD Foods.

 He and Theresa developed their own recipe. “Not all kettle corn tastes the same,” he explained. “Once you taste ours, you’ll be hooked!”

Thunder Ridge offers other flavors, such as caramel, cinnamon and sugar, and strawberry. The corn can be colored for sporting events or baby showers.

Polly Dougherty is a home baker who understands how a cookie can put a smile on anyone’s face. Her market stand, Comfort Zone Cookies, has a delectable display of home-baked goodness.

“I bake eight cookie varieties,” Dougherty said, “and seven are original recipes.” Her chocolate chip cookies are the traditional recipe and her oatmeal raisin cookies are gluten free.

Ten months of the year, Dougherty lives in Crystal River, Fla., where she also bakes and sells cookies. “I come visit my daughter in May and June each year,” she explained. Dougherty sells her cookies at the Perryville Farmers Market while in the area.

The view from the market is just one of the reasons Kathy Fielder enjoys selling at Perryville.

A beautiful river view enhances the shopping experience.

 “Last winter we placed first in the Super Hot Salsa category with out Reaper Pepper Salsa,” Ed said. Kathy added, “We also won first place for our mild salsa.” These wins were at the National Fiery Foods Festival in Albuquerque, N.M. “It’s a gorgeous view!” she said. She and her husband Ed are the FCD Foods vendors. Fielder’s Choice Delectables was started when the couple began canning the bounty of their garden. On a whim, they took a few jars of pickle relish to the Maryland State Fair and won first place. From that humble beginning they have developed a huge assortment of jams, salsas, hot sauces and relishes. They still enjoy competing at festivals and state fairs, and continue to win.

Salsa and hot sauce are big sellers for FCD Foods. Made with all homegrown ingredients, there are eight varieties of salsa available, from mild to XXX hot. If you’re looking to spice things up, you can choose between Peach Habanera Hot Sauce, Ghost Pepper, Reaper or Scorpion Hot sauce.

“We offer samples of our hot sauces at the farm market,” Kathy said. Tastings are done with a toothpick dipped in the sauce.

“I often ask if their life insurance is paid up before they taste our hot sauces,” she said, laughing.

 If you prefer sweet to fiery, there are many jellies and jams available. In addition to traditional strawberry, raspberry and cherry jams, there are innovative flavors like Hot Mango and Hot Pineapple. As you can guess, these “hot” jams incorporate habanero peppers to give it a kick.

Seasonal items like apple butter, cranberry jelly and apple cider jelly are also popular. Last year, the Fielders added homemade sauerkraut, and will be bringing it back this year due to its popularity.

Ed Fielder grows all the ingredients for their recipes in his one-acre garden. “We planted 3,000 onions, 400 to 600 tomato plants, and have 200 pepper plants ready to go in the ground,” Kathy said. Later in the summer, they will stockpile canned tomatoes and other produce to have on hand for winter production of their recipes.

“We could never use commercial canned tomatoes for our salsa,” Kathy said. “It would ruin the flavor.”

In addition to the veggies, the Fielders grow much of their own fruit for the jams and jellies. “We have a special every week. Mix and match five items for $20.” Kathy said. “It gives people a chance to try our different products.”

Van Houten Gardens offers a garden center experience, along with fresh produce, fruit and herbs. Choose from hanging baskets, annuals and perennials for your landscape, and pick up fresh eggs from cage-free chickens. Kat Zalewski-Bednarek runs the market stall for the Van Houten family.

“Our supplies come from our farm in the Poconos and our nursery in Bel Air,” she said. The produce offered is plentiful, and recently included beans, tomatoes, rhubarb, lettuce and other greens. A large variety of potted herbs, colorful zinnias, marigolds, and even roses bushes are available. This stall is one-stop shopping for the cook and the gardener.

Why not enhance your weekend dining with a bottle of BGR Wine? Manolo Gonzalez and his brother-in-law, Lorenzo Ruggiero, are bottling Tempranillo and Albarino wine.

Ruggiero’s family has a rich history of winemaking in Airola, Italy, and he has brought this knowledge and experience to Rising Sun. Bodegas Gonzalez Ruggiero Wine was established two years ago by the brothers-in-law.

Manolo’s grandparents came to the area in 1986 and established a thoroughbred breeding operation. Today the farm is the headquarters for BGR Wine.

“We currently do not have a tasting room at the farm,” Manolo said, but BGR wine is available for tasting at area farmers markets and events such as the Cecil County wine festival.

Though Manolo and Lorenzo purchase their grapes from California, the wine is made and bottled on site in Rising Sun. Ultimately they plan to grow their own grapes and have planted a test plot with vines to determine the viability of planting a vineyard in Rising Sun.

“Cecil County has a mixture of sandy loam, clay and volcanic soils,” Manolo said. “The concentrations of each can differ throughout a field, so we need to find grapes that will grow in this particular soil.” Their test plot is currently planted with Malbec and Albarino vines.

Lorenzo’s wife, Alietta, is also involved in the winemaking venture, and is studying oenology in Italy. This is BGR’s first season at the Perryville Farmers Market.

Rock Hollow Honey and Beeswax grew out of Suzette Jackson’s passion for beekeeping. She has been a beekeeper for 15 years in Port Deposit. With daughter Marion’s help, she bottles honey, and produces lip balms, hand creams, and beeswax candles.

“Our honey is considered raw honey,” Suzette explained. “ It has been strained but not processed.” Mother and daughter have developed a following for their personal care items. “We make Ultra Rich Moisturizing hand lotion,” she said. The product includes shea butter and almond oil. They also make a heavier “Skin Saver” hand cream with olive oil. Their lip balms come in plain beeswax, a tea tree medicated balm, and a peppermint oil version.

Bottled honey, honey sticks and sometimes even comb honey is available at their stall. Rock Hollow Honey has been a vendor since the start of the Perryville Farmers Market. Suzette said that the market allows her to “keep my finger on the pulse of the community,” and she enjoys seeing her regular customers.

This is the fourth year for the Perryville Farmers market.

“We are starting off with ten market vendors, and will probably increase to 16 as the season progresses,” explained Amanda Hickman.

The market allows for a personalized shopping experience. Vendors connect with their customers; shoppers learn where their food comes from and how it is produced. It is all about shopping at a slower pace and creating a relationship between the producer and the consumer.

Kathy Fielder shared the same thoughts of many vendors when she said, “People in Perryville are so friendly, they always make time to have a conversation while they shop.”

Local farmers markets play an important role in the community, and are flourishing as people become more particular about eating local and healthy. You can shop at the Perryville Farmers Market each Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. from May through October. It is located in the Lower Ferry Park at Broad Street and Roundhouse Drive in downtown Perryville, Md.

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