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Growing Together: The Journey Ahead for Hollywood Farmers Market. Community Input Needed

Customers at the Hollywood Farmers Market

At next Tuesday’s meeting, the Council will discuss the future of the Hollywood Farmers Market (website, Facebook). Among the options on the table is temporarily “pause” or suspending market operations. This pause could potentially be indefinite, indicating that there is a possibility that the market may not resume its activities.

The Hollywood Farmers Market was started by a group of volunteers (including myself) in 2013. The first market day was June 1st, 2013. A market committee comprising residents was formed. The committee members recruited vendors. They also started the market website and social media presence and worked on getting the permits from the county. The market committee also started writing weekly newsletters and attended events promoting the market.

A year later, the City offered to help the market with a part-time staff and some funds for marketing. The staff primarily served as the market master.

This continued until 2018 when the City took over the market’s operations. At this time, the City had two staff working as contractors for the market. An additional staff joined last year as a food access coordinator. The FY24 budget alloecated $22,000, primarily supporting staff and marketing.

The market has supported several local farmers and vendors, with a maximum of  24 vendors in the past. Many of these vendors consistently return, demonstrate profitability, and include participants such as the meat and poultry farmer and the prepared food vendor. Notably, the market has attracted farmers from surrounding Maryland areas and within College Park and Berwyn. Furthermore, local musicians have enriched the atmosphere by offering live entertainment for patrons, complementing the vibrant community spirit fostered by the market.

According to the staff report, the market faces challenges, including vendor retention and competition from new grocery stores. After COVID, the number of vendors attending the market has declined. Yet, the market attracted a maximum of 14 vendors in the last market season. With declining sales, fewer vendors, and staffing issues, proposed solutions could include enhanced marketing, paying vendors, and reducing frequency. However, the staff’s primary concern is attracting a strong produce vendor.

The market has also served as a focal point for community engagement. Numerous community members have appreciated the opportunity to meet with their neighbors every Saturday morning. Additionally, the market has hosted diverse events such as Crafts for Kids, Trunk or Treating, cold weather clothing drives for Hollywood Elementary School, canned food drives for local food banks, and serving as a stop on Trolley Trail Day. It has also facilitated initiatives like the Campus-City Connection and electric vehicle events and served as a starting point for community cleanup efforts.

Another goal behind the creation of the market was to help revitalize the Hollywood commercial district. Many customers attending the market also attend the businesses in the shopping plaza.

The M-NCPPC is planning to build a community center around the area where the market currently takes place. It’s anticipated that the construction of the Community Center won’t commence until at least the following year, possibly even later, as the design phase has not yet begun. Community meetings will be scheduled during the design process to gather input. One proposal from community discussions suggests relocating the market, potentially to the opposite end of the parking lot, during the construction period. The intention is to reintegrate the market into the plaza of the completed community center once construction concludes.

Staff proposal about the market’s future includes revisiting starting the market once the community center is built. A new community center may help attract more customers to the market.

Unfortunately, the community center may take several years to be built. In the meantime, the community will lose this wonderful amenity for these years, assuming that the City decides to bring it back. Staff proposals also include relocating vendors or engaging residents for input on community events. Furthermore, the old vendors may not return after these years as they may have settled in another market.

The decision regarding the market’s future will hinge on how the community defines a “viable” market—whether it should rely solely on the presence of a major produce vendor or continue to support the existing returning vendors, who still draw a significant number of community members.

Please write to the Mayor and Council about your thoughts about the future market at cpmc@collegeparkmd.gov. The Council will appreciate your input during next Tuesday’s discussion. Thank you.

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5 Comments

  1. Julie Gillern

    SAve the market. Supposed development takes away and does not give back locally. We need the market and love the vendors and their loyalty. Support the Hollywood Farmers Market! Keep them in our community.

  2. Peggy Ramos

    The Hollywood Farmers Market is an important part of the city. Losing it will be a disaster.

  3. Pat Noone

    Agree with the above! The market promotes a sense of living in a community, one of the few places I feel that. I also do not understand why having a “big” produce vendor is the measure of its success? I am very happy with produce from Blue Berwyn Farms. I would also be happy to see other community memeber with large gardens and surplus be part of the market. I remember a few such vendors in the past.

  4. Casey

    The more I learn about the threat to the Hollywood market, the more I am disgusted. The city has not been playing fair with their market permits since the shut downs ended, and that has frustrated several of our vendors. The vendors at the Hollywood market consistently talk about how much they enjoy being a part of this market. The vendors, the loyal customers, and the volunteer staff are who reinvented the wheel and got the market through the shut down, because we are truly invested in this.

    As a consumer, it was access to quality meat, eggs, and fish that lead me to the Hollywood market, because people who care for their livestock and sell for fair prices are hard to find. This market has been a gem for offering that. The idea that the market is failing because it does not have a “big” produce vendor is insanity. There are small produce vendors and visiting produce vendors. Also nothing is going to scare a vendor away like the threat of closure.

    Taking away a community landmark for a supposed community center is about as good an idea as the useless gateway park up the road. The market currently meets in the parking lot of the Hollywood shopping center. Does this mean they are imminent domaining the parking lot to build this center? After all the random vacant lots that were turned into confusing “parks” no one asked for, the only place to build a community center is in the parking lot of a commercial area that houses a local landmark? That is outrageous.

    I appreciate everyone who is coming together to spread the word about this. I love to see the community in action.

  5. Kevin Saxon

    We need that market and the social outdoor nature of a Farmer’s Market. It’s for the community. And it’s for the Human Touch.

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