Thursday, July 26, 2012

At The Baltimore Farmer's Market: Which Farms Are Actually Organic?

We have been wanting to experience a larger farmers market than the tiny one where we live. So we got up early on a Sunday morning after a very late Saturday night gig, and made the trip to the 'Baltimore Farmer's Market and Bazaar.'  That is a strong commitment to food adventure folks! This outdoor market is located under the JFX highway, just at the end of the small left Pleasant Street exit. Get off the exit, and follow the road to the light, turn left, and make a left into the parking lot, which is no charge during market hours. Easy! On a map you will find it at Saratoga Street between Holiday and Gay. The Market is on Sundays from April 1rst, to December 23rd. This is the 35th Annual Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar. The Baltimore Farmer's Market opens at 7 am and runs till approximately noon, or until items sell out. When we finished our produce shopping just before  noon, the market was still filled with people buying and selling. I only saw one person breaking down their stand at that point.

The Bazaar vendors are outside of the main food market area selling items like jewelry, arts, crafts, home goods and clothing. To give a festive flair there are young people playing and performing with brightly colored hoola-hoops. Food excitement is in the air!
Click on 'Read More' below to view entire post.

The atmosphere under the JFX is much like a street festival. The car sounds rumble above you, and the various aromas from food vendors fill the air. It's colorful under that grey highway, with table after table covered in produce. On this hot summer day it was nice to be in the shade for awhile. The Baltimore Farmer's Market was almost as we imagined it might be. Except not as gorgeous, as the ones you see in all of the food documentaries! 

The large crowd under the JFX is constantly moving throughout the entire market area, so you do have to be careful how you navigate through all of the people. If you have small children you would have to keep hold of them. You may also have to wait patiently to be served. Some of the vendors were giving out free tasting samples to entice potential customers. The main aisles were filled with shoppers equipped with their own recyclable market bags, ready to carry beautiful assorted vegetables and fruits home. Perhaps they might even add a tempting bread or bakery goodie to their bag too. As a person with sugar intolerance I will get my sweets from straight up fruit.

The first food item we came upon when entering the farmers area was fruits and berries. They all looked so luscious, it was hard to decide what to buy. We finally settled on getting a few boxes of blueberries and blackberries. Yum!

Unfortunately I was perplexed as I looked around at the vendors in each stand. There were no signs telling me who was organic, or what farming practices any of the farmers employed when growing their food for sale. I expected the organic farmers to proudly display that fact with big happy signs! I found one vendor that had  'Calvert Farm CSA' on their sign and I just assumed they were organic. Turns out they were, which is good, because we bought some tomatoes from them on that assumption.

It is good to buy local, because the food is freshly picked at peak ripeness, and has not traveled 1500 miles to you. Neither does it need any special chemicals or gases to make it ripen on it's trip to you. BUT, that does not mean it is automatically pesticide free, and safe to eat. You still do not know what you are getting unless you know what the farmers practices are with chemicals, GMO seeds, antibiotics and hormones. With the crowds at such a large market, it is not always possible to have a lengthy conversation with the grower about their farming practices. Not everyone is that outgoing either, so I feel there should be some kind of vendor signs that help with those important decisions. Organic and sustainable practices are important to me. Our CSA is certified organic, and I really appreciate that fact. So onward I went going down the main aisles looking for "some kind of a sign"....I was surprised to find no one with a large readable sign near to anyone's name, with the positive information I was searching for that morning. Since I did not find any specific signs, when I came home I spent an entire day researching the list of farmers at the Baltimore Farmers Market. (You can find the information I gathered at the bottom of this post, along with a handy downloadable list that you can take with you to the BF Market.)

So we decided to buy some cucumbers, as I really go through them making fresh vegetable juice everyday. Just in case they have pesticides on them, I know I can peel them easily. We also purchased some sweet Spanish onions, because I thought they would be safe too.

Ben stopped at a food vendor to get a fresh made veggie omelet. I kept going down the aisles scoping out who might be organic under here! I got really excited when I discovered a fresh juice operation in the center of all this hustle and bustle. Whoo hoo! Oh sweet manna from heaven. This is awesome! There was a platter of various fruits and veggies just waiting to be juiced (you can see that photo at the top of this blog post). Now I was really happy! We chose a large mixed vegetable drink from the menu. It was fantastic!

Here is the cool part!!! It was time for a wheat grass shot! Yea baby! They cut the wheat grass fresh, and placed it in the auger juicing machine to slowly drip out the magical chlorophyll juice. You only need a little wheat grass shot to make great improvements to your health and well being.

If you never had a wheat grass shot you might think, "this is the one juice that is going to taste green and bitter." That is what I thought, but I was wrong. Wheat grass has a distinctive, and almost sweet flavor. We loved it! Thank you 'Nutin' But The Juice!'

I actually want to look into growing and juicing my own wheat grass at home. Ben and I would like to have a wheat grass shot everyday. Till then...bottoms up!

On our way out of the 'Baltimore Farmer's Market and Bazaar' with our arms loaded down carrying a watermelon and produce bags, I spied this funky bus full of vintage clothing! I will have to check them out the next time we visit the Baltimore Farmers Market, before I gather all my veggies and fruits. Totally Trippy Bus! After our farmers market visit we went off in search of the new Wegman's food store in Columbia, MD. We have been to their store in Hunt Valley, and the new one in Frederick as well. They are all similar of course, but after our visit to all three, I can say we like the Wegman's in Frederick the best. Lucky us!

So what farms are actually certified organic, and who uses sustainable growing practices among the farms represented at the 'Baltimore Farmer's Market and Bazaar?'

This is what I really wanted to know. After all, I got into this way of eating for improving my health issues, and removing the toxins from my life. I want "clean" fresh whole foods to eat, and to serve those healthy food choices to my loved ones. I could not find any ready-made list about the BFM farm vendors practices, so I made the following list myself. If anyone has any other farming practice information that can be verified online about any of the BFM farms let me know. If the farms mentioned here have any comments or additional information please leave a comment below. This was hard work folks, and it took an entire day of researching each farm online for their farming practices. Then an additional two days to organize and get the information into this form. I don't have the time to write and call every farmer. If this was my only source of fresh farm food then it would be a different story. For me, I will only be going to the BFM a couple of times a year, still I think this kind of farming information is very important to the consumer. So I did the best I could with online information. Would love to hear from you, if you found this post useful, or if you downloaded the list provided at the end of this post.

First I want to say to the BFM farms who have a website...Thank You! You Rock! Why? Because many farms have no online presence at all, and no info means they are not on this list. I will assume they use conventional practices which mean chemicals, or animal pharmaceuticals. Facebook is also a useless place for information if the farm has not filled out their 'about page' with their own farming practices.

Below you will find my 'Farm Shopping List' which I have broken into sections. Most of the names have links to a website or article. I am also providing a link at the bottom of this post, to a smaller downloadable version of this list that you can take along to the BFM, as well. It does not contain the explanation of "Terms," so you will have to remember what the names of the farm practices mean. That way you do not have to sit here and scribble your own notes about each farms practices. The Queen is trying to make life, and health, easy for you! Although I cannot tell you where any of these vendors are located in the market, it would not be too hard to look for Farm vendor names, as most names seemed to be on banners or trucks. Let's get to it!

To start out, here is the official list I used to start my online research on farming practices. This comes from the 'Baltimore Office Of Promotion And The Arts.' 
Here is their Link to Farms Participating At The 2012 Baltimore Farmer's Market.

We Need A Basic Understanding Of Terms Used First: 

Certified Organic - USDA regulated farming. (Read Link) Land must not have fertilizer or pesticide use for 3 years before being certified. Farmers must keep accurate records about their sustainable practices. Generally no pesticides used at all, as well as no hormones or antibiotics used on animals. No GMO products used, biodiversity, crop rotation, green manures, cover crops, renewable resources, ecological balance, mixed forage pastures, and rotational grazing. Optimizes the health and productivity of the interdependent communities of land, air, water, animals, and people.

Sustainable Practices - Could mean many things to different farmers, so once again you need to know your farmer and their farm for the real story. Basically for most it implies they use ecological techniques that employ conservation and biodiversity in their fields. For instance, they may use manure, no pesticides, and heirloom varieties of crops instead of hybrids and GMO's from Big Ag. They will treat their animals with respect, feeding them natural substances, let them free roam, and generally do not use antibiotics and hormones. Employees are treated fairly, and the overall aspects of the entire farm are humane, and cause no harm to humans or animals. (Read Link)

Integrated Pest Management - Implies the farm uses other methods of eradicating the pests on their crops first. and tries to lessen the amount of chemicals, pesticides, and fungicides used. It does not mean that chemicals are not used, it may mean low spray, and would depend on the farmer and their particular situation. This procedure is also an attempt to calm the public, and keep them from any further regulatory measures against pesticides. Always be wary of Big Ag's control over any system, however benign it may seem. (Read link)

Naturally Grown - has no meaning really, as it can mean something different to each person. So it is a nebulous term, changing with the person who uses it. 'Certified Naturally Grown' is a group that supports farmers who want to use organic procedures on their farm without the cost of the USDA program. They are not permitted to use the word organic. You would have to know the farmer and been to the farm to actually know what "they" mean by using these words. It may be a very good sustainable program.

Cage Free - Hens are not kept in cages, but still kept in large indoor hen houses, and fed grain of unknown origin, and probably a GMO grain at that. Their beaks are most likely cut as well. Look instead for chickens that are pastured, and moved around the land by the farmer in movable huts. These chickens eat grass, weeds, insects and grubs. They actually spend most of their days in a field! The eggs are far superior and have more nutrients. You can tell this kind of egg by the taste and the deep orange color of the yolks. (Read link) Hint: look up any farm in question with Google satellite mapping, and see what kind of hen houses are being used on the property.

Farming Practices of Some 
Baltimore Farmer's Market Farms 2012
Certified Organic Farms

Cats Paw Organic Farm - Union Bridge MD
Certified Organic Produce. Also sells flowers, herbs, and baked goods. 

The Calvert Farm - Rising Sun MD - Certified  organic produce, free range chicken and duck eggs, honey, cheese, and mushrooms. CSA

Sustainable Practices Farms

Truck Patch Farms - New Windsor MD  
Sustainable practices. Animals are free roaming. Produce is pesticide free.  
Turkey, chicken, and pork, used in Baltimore restaurants.

Caprikorn Farm - Gapland MD
Sustainable practices - Raw goat milk cheese

Stoecker Farms - Middle River MD 
Sustainable practices, some organic, with integrated pest management. 
Vegetables and Herbs.
Agriberry - Studley, VA - Sustainable and some organic practices, along with integrated pest management. No spraying for weeds due to black plastic and drip irrigation. They sell mostly Berries and fruits.

Zahradka Farm - Middle River MD
Sustainable practices, some organic, with Integrated Pest management. 
Fruits and vegetables.

Gunpowder Bison and Trading Co - Monkton MD 
Grass fed and pastured bison meat. Never use feed additives, hormones or antibiotics.

South Mountain Creamery - Frederick MD
Dairy and meat products - no hormones or antibiotics. No growth hormones in the milk
(which is in glass bottles. refundable deposit fee $1.50.) Sustainable farm practices in many areas of the farm. Beef is pastured and grass fed, they do not spray their fields. 
Pork - no hormones or antibiotics, and fed a vegetable diet. Chicken - cage free. 
They also sell lamb.

Hawks Hill Creamery - Street MD
No growth hormones or antibiotics. Hand crafted raw cheese, and ice cream. No animal rennet is used, so their Raw cheese is suitable for vegetarians.

Many Rocks Farm - Keedysville MD
Sustainable practices. Pastured goats and hogs. Also sells goat milk soaps.

Hickory Chance Beef - Bel Air MD
Grass fed and pastured, with grain available. No hormones, no antibiotics.

Albright Farms - Monkton MD 
Integrated Pest Management, low spray, adding nutrients to soil in a variety of ways.
Beef is grass fed, grain finished with their own crops. No hormones or antibiotics. Chickens, eat grass and insects, along with grains from the farm. No hormones or antibiotics. Turkeys are fed gains from farm. No hormones or antibiotics.

Integrated Pest Management Farms

Knopps Farm - Severn MD
Integrated Pest Management. Trying to reduce the use of pesticides by various methods. Adds cover crops to put nutrients back into the soil.

Pahl's Farm - Granite, MD 
Integrated Pest Management. Produce, herbs, flowers, fruits.

Reid Orchard and Winery - Orrtanna PA
Integrated pest management/Land stewardship. Fruits, vegetables, walnuts, herbs.

Naturally Grown

KCC Natural Farms - Forest Hill Md 
Natural meaning no hormones or antibiotics, or animal by products. Cage free, free range, and pastured. Poultry, pheasant, quail, chukars, capons and various eggs.
Richfield Farms - Manchester MD 
Provides fresh produce to many of Baltimore's well known farm to table restaurants. Nothing found on their farming practices. Large variety of produce and heirloom varieties.

Big White Barn Produce - Buckeystown MD
Naturally grown vegetables. Not sure what their interpretation of that term is, but the renown Frederick chef Bryan Voltaggio uses their produce in his restaurants. CSA


Chesapeake Greenhouse - Sudlersville MD
Fresh Hydroponic Bib lettuce, herbs and micro greens. Minimal chemicals, if any.

Cage Free

Hens Nest - New Windsor Md
Eggs are cage free only. Must order in advance for eggs or chickens, that are free roaming and organic.



  1. Thank you for this... I know this is an older post, but I was specifically looking for this information today and stumbled across this. I'll definitely be taking this to the Farmer's Market with me from now on!

    1. Awesome! I am so glad it could be of help. I don't now what farms are there this year, but I would guess many would still be involved. I appreciate your commenting! Thank you!

  2. THANK YOU! We moved back to Baltimore last summer and I had the same reaction you did when we went to the farmers market, wondering why there were no "organic" signs at the farm stands. I'm headed there for the first time this season today and so I googled "which farms at the Baltimore farmers market are organic?" Yes, I even included the question mark -- my husband laughs at me for the way I google. BUT, it always works. In this case, your blog was the first item google offered and it is PERFECT. I'll head out in a few minutes armed with all the information I was hoping would be available at the market itself. SO APPRECIATE ALL THIS WORK YOU DID!

    1. Thanks Sasha! This is an older post so I hope the organic farms I mentioned are still at this farmers market for you to enjoy!