Just across the Washington, DC border is Silver Spring, an unincorporated city in Montgomery County, Maryland. Home to the Discovery Channel, the American Film Institute Silver Theatre, and an ever-growing collection of creative entrepreneurs, Silver Spring is far from your typical strip mall suburb.
Each Saturday, the center of the downtown business district is blocked off and filled with produce vendors from throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
The downtown Silver Spring market is part of FRESHFARM Markets, which strives to provide education in matters of local food, environmental issues and economic growth for local farmers. The markets also participate in SNAP dollars and gleaning programs, in which (often misshapen) produce that cannot be sold is donated to food banks throughout the region.
The market is rife not only with rich seasonal produce, artisan food products, baked goods and pasture-raised meats, but with stories. Each farm has a unique history and place in the community.
Holly Leber is a writer and editor based in Silver Spring, Md. When she’s not hunting for stories, she can be found going on produce-related shopping sprees, making jam, wine tasting and reading 1930’s Nancy Drew. Holly is the editorial director of The Daily Do Good.
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Gooseberries and currants from Three Springs Fruit Farm, a seventh-generation family farm in Aspers, Penn. "We really try to go for the off-the-wall type things," said Lauren Hebel, who has worked at Three Springs for five years.
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Colleen and Michael Hilston became interested in farming through their children's participation in 4H. Today, they own Shepherd's Manor Creamery in Mt. Airy, Md. At Maryland's first sheep dairy, Colleen combines her interest in agriculture and cooking, making sheep's milk cheese as well as soap, pictured here.
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In addition to stunning produce, like this brightly colored rainbow chard, The Farm at Our House in Brookeville, Md. provides job-training opportunities for at-risk young men. The farm is an offshoot of Our House, a nonprofit residential program for abandoned, abused, homeless and orphaned teenage boys.
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Plenty of market visitors stop by Evensong Farm's table for eggs, beef, pork and charcuterie. But even more can be seen walking around with a cup of Urban+Ade, lemonade made from the herbs grown at Evensong. Owner Julie Gray Stiner creates refreshing seasonal combinations like red basil and tarragon, lavender and lemon balm, and sage and mint.
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Country Pleasures Farm was the first certified organic orchard in the state of Maryland. Up-to-the-minute seasonal produce is available. Summer boasts peaches and apricots, black raspberries, blueberries, and delicate lavender.
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Blue Ridge Dairy Co. began in 1999 as a 10-acre, one-cow farm in Lovettsville, Va. Now located in Sterling, Va., owners Paul and Alison Stephan and their staff create handmade butter, yogurt and cheese, including creamy burrata, 90-day aged feta, and probiotic Greek-style yogurt.
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These scalloped oyster mushrooms from North Cove Mushrooms in Madison County, Va. look like under-the-sea plant life. In addition to selling fresh mushrooms, North Cove customers can buy handmade ravioli, mushroom tintcures and Reishi remedy tea.
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Capitol Kettle Corn capitalizes on the DC-adjacent location with politically inspired sweet and salty popcorn, including Filibuster (buttered), Camelot (caramel), POTUS (spicy hot chocolate), and First Lady (brown sugar, pictured here).
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Bright green pea shoots from Chicano Sol, a certified organic family farm in Blain, Pa. At the Silver Spring Farmer's Market, Chicano Sol is the go-to destination for microgreens.
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"Movin' to the country… gonna eat a lot of peaches…" It's hard to avoid flashing back to '90s Top 40 at the sight of crates of gorgeous, sweet peaches from Spring Valley Farm and Orchard in Slanesville, WV. Spring Valley was recently GAP (good agricultural practices) certified in food safety by the USDA. A veritable rainbow of produce, from Rich May peaches to purple cauliflower to milky sweet corn, can be found.