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Farmers Markets: where people matter

Hillary Rothrock

(7/3) Social media has brought us both closer together and yearning for authentic connection. Farmers markets and flea markets are the last real social shopping experiences left in America. Mega-corporations and big box stores have put many smaller family-owned stores out of business. Mom and Pop shopís saving grace has been the ability to intimately connect with their patrons on a level no box store has been able to recreate. The perfect venue for small shops and their customers to connect is their local farmers market. The space is strictly reserved for only businesses that have handcrafted, homemade, or homegrown goods. This provides customers with a unique one-stop-shop experience and an easy way to directly support their local economy. Open-air markets are a travel destination for tourists and locals are eager to experience everything their community has to offer them.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania runs the nationís oldest year-round farmers market. Typically packed to the gills, itís a mainstay for the city residents and area businesses. Hillary Rothrock, owner of J. Rothrock Outfitters, moved here from Lancaster City several years ago and knows just how indispensible and important the local farmers market can be for restaurants and other small family owned and run businesses, especially those just trying to get off the ground. Hillary was a frequent patron of the Lancaster Central Market and made friends with area small business owners that set up there. So this year, she has taken on the task of improving her neighborhood market, the Thurmont Farmers Market. Hillary is determined to make the 2017 market one to remember and to build the future upon.

Hillary started out as a Thurmont Farmers Market vendor three seasons ago with a tiny card table under a large pop-up. She sold her handcrafted ecofriendly soy candles, essential oil blends, and all natural body butters made from raw organic ingredients. The camaraderie of her fellow vendors made every early Saturday morning a pleasant social event in itself. Patrons were cheerful and chatty, their questions and feedback helped her to grow and expand her products and develop ideas which eventually led to her opening her new store on East Main Street in Thurmont. Shoppers have more of an impact in improving their communities by frequenting the small businesses that gather at market each week. Their support and feedback provided the funding and ideas that helped a new business open, one that sponsored a local Little League team and assists the local scouting community. Never underestimate the power you hold when you shop at your local market. Every small purchase can have a lasting impact in your community, sometimes realized 3 or more years down the road.

As Thurmont Farmers Market chair, Mrs. Rothrock has booked live musicians for most Saturday mornings and is continuing to seek local food vendors and artisans to expand the experience for market goers. The addition of live acoustic music by local singer-songwriters brings added energy to the growing and vibrant downtown. In June, Frederick native singer-songwriter John Lawton opened things up. Johnís eclectic folky-funk style combined with his relatable lyrics has won him fans in many states. Thurmont was no different. He will be returning July 29, August 19, and September 23rd for the last market day. At the most recent market, dynamic duo Abigail and Eric Selby entertained shoppers with harp and drum music. Abigail stated afterwards "We enjoyed playing, such a lovely town vibe." They will return August 26th and September 2nd. Thurmont will also welcome Michael Warner, a solo acoustic musician from Frederick and Debra Guy, a singer-songwriter from Virginia over the next 2 months.

No matter how great a product is, our modern busy lives donít always allow time for multiple stops and trying a new product is always a risk. Frequenting a local market is a pleasant way to avoid all the traffic (one-stop-shop), sample local wares, and provides you an opportunity to ask the grower or maker any questions you may have. Itís the perfect chance to learn their story and meet the makers. You never know who you may inspire or what positive change you may have on your community. This past weekend I was able to support four small businesses in one quick stop. I came home with a waterproof bag made by recycled and repurposed materials, a few succulents, some delicious baked goods, and a jar of locally grown honey. I also sampled the homegrown strawberries, which were as sweet as candy this week. There is just no place like market.

If youíve never experienced a Farmers Market or havenít been in a while, the local Farmers Markets invite you to give it a try! We hope to see you soon! You just may discover or re-discover a favorite product of yours! Thurmontís market is held every Saturday morning from 9am to Noon in the Municipal Parking Lot behind the PNC Bank on East Main Street.

For a complete schedule of musician dates check out the Thurmont Main Street page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ThurmontFirst)

To apply to become a vendor at the Thurmont Farmers Market, you can contact Hillary Rothrock at ThurmontFarmersMarket@gmail.com or stop into her shop Thursdays through Mondays until 6 p.m. at 3 East Main Street in Thurmont.

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