At a work session Tuesday night, the mayor and city council discussed potential changes to the Downtown College Park Farmers Market.
Changing the start and end times, lifting some regulations and hosting various events were among the options explored. During last year’s season, the downtown market underperformed in comparison to the Hollywood Farmers Market, market manager Julie Beavers said.
“It struggled pretty much the whole entire year, especially during the summertime,” Beavers said.
New vendors are still approaching the city to be at the market next year, said Ryan Chelton, city economic development coordinator, but returning vendors want to see more events to bring in new customers.
Some of the market’s current vendors include Bill’s Backyard BBQ, Larry’s Produce and Gentle Flours, according to its website.
Hollywood Farmers Market board member Aaron Springer raised the possibility of hosting more food trucks at the farmers market to attract a larger student population.
The downtown farmers market is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays between April and November. The Hollywood Farmers Market is open during the same months on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
City planning director Terry Schum said University of Maryland students are gone for most of the summer, which hurts the downtown farmers market in particular.
Making the farmers market more of a food truck hub would attract more than just students, District 2 Councilman Monroe Dennis said. He also said activities such as face-painting, as well as changing the start and end times to not coincide with church services, could help attract more people.
Springer suggested hosting events such as a car show, where residents could bring their old cars to the farmers market, creating an atmosphere that’s more than just a place where residents can get produce.
“We’re going to need to find some unique ways to work the market, to capture our resident population, to capture our population and to capture people who are just visiting College Park,” Springer said.
Lifting the market’s restriction on vendors, which keeps them from selling produce they didn’t grow themselves, was also discussed. College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said he felt strongly about enforcing this rule when the downtown market was first established in 2011, but seeing the market struggle has changed his mind.
The Hollywood Farmers Market was established as a result of a grassroots community initiative, Schum said, while the city created the downtown farmers market to try and increase the availability of fresh produce in the city. The city funds both markets, but runs the downtown market.
While access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the downtown area is limited, Springer said, students don’t have as high a demand for fresh produce as long-term residents in Hollywood do.
“We have multiple economies that we can tap here if we just pay attention and bring them in,” Springer said.
The Hollywood Farmers Market will open April 21, and the downtown market will open April 22.
“When it’s active downtown, it’s a lot of fun,” District 2 Councilman P.J. Brennan said. “Those days that feel a lot of fun there’s a lot of color, there’s a lot of flowers, a lot of produce, and I’m looking forward to those coming back.”