The first Saturday in May had farmers hauling out their vegetables, fruits and flowers for the first growers' market of the season in Chester County, in West Chester.
But the West Chester Growers Market is just the first of seven local markets that have opened or will open over the next few weeks, selling fresh produce and baked goods. Details about each appear below.
At West Chester Saturday, Peg Dearolf of Blueberry Hill Farm said her asparagus sold out within the first hour and a half. With crowds browsing through the stands, it was clear people were eager for the market to open.
Joining the West Chester market vendors for the first time was Jeff Porter, with hot sauce and jellies made from chili peppers. Another vendor, Zhouhong Yin, a Dupont chemist and owner of Queens Farm, said he uses no chemicals on the 150 vegetable varieties he sells, including chives, edamame beans and bok choy.
Shopper Anne Carroll said she doesn't buy vegetables at the grocery store when the market is in season. She's come every week since it started 13 years ago. "Everything tastes better," she said.
Perched atop her father's shoulders, Julia Schwartz, 6, surveyed the bustling crowd. Her mother, Rita, said the market gets "better and better."
Here's what's new at all the Chester County markets, and information for each:
Eagleview Farmers Market. Assistant market manager Lindsey Weber said the market will add eggs and have a new fruit vendor. This season, five new festival themes will spice up the season. On June 6, the first day of the market, there will be gardening tips and demonstrations. On Sept. 12, the Great Valley Nature Center will bring farm animals to the market so youngsters (and adults) can get acquainted with them.
Eagleview is open from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays from June 6 to Nov. 21. It's at Eagleview Town Center, Wellington Square, Eagleview, off Route 100. For more information, call 610-458-1155 or go to www.eagleviewfarmersmarket.com.
Kennett Square Farmers Market. Because the market is in the heart of mushroom country, P.A. Lafferty & Sons Inc. will sell button, medium, and large white mushrooms. Stargazers Vineyard will also set up a booth to market its wines.
Mary Hutchins, executive director of Historic Kennett Square, which sponsors of the market, said Shepherd Pie's organic dog treats will join the market this year. Two specialties are garlic balls and flax-and-peanut butter stars.
Kennett Square is open from 2 to 6 p.m. Fridays from May 18 to October. It's at the Genesis Walkway, corner of State and Union Streets. For more information, call 610-444-8188 or go to www.historickennettsquare.com/farmers.html.
New Garden Growers Market. Going into its third season, the New Garden Township market is the newest one on the Chester County block. "It's one of those things that take two or three years to develop a following," said Carin Bonifacino, the market manager and also a farmer. She grows 50 to 100 varieties of flowers, which she sells at the market.
The newest vendor is a full-time landscaper who grows tomatoes and cucumbers in his backyard. "He's not quitting his day job, but he's looking for land. That's a huge obstacle for young people trying to get into farming," Bonifacino said. "If every farmers market has one new vendor, I'm hopeful this kind of movement" for local markets will grow, she said.
The New Garden market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays from May 19 to Oct. 13. It's on Route 41, a quarter-mile north of Newark Road, to the left of the entrance to the New Garden Township Park. For more information, call 610-268-2150.
Oxford Village Farm Market. Most of the vendors are local Amish growers. Market manager April Ennis-Pierson said, "Our market does specialize in local fruits and vegetables. The fresh-from-the-field sweet corn is always a hit." The stands will also have baked goods, fresh eggs and canned vegetables.
Oxford is already open. It runs from 2 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, May 8 to mid-October, at Third and Locust Streets. For more information, call 610-998-9494.
Phoenixville Farmers Market. Started with only four vendors six years ago, the Phoenixville market now has 30 vendors, making it the largest farmers market in Chester County.
New this year are specialty organic ice cream sandwiches, such as strawberry ice cream with peanut butter crusts, from Buster's Treats. Marci's Morsels' organic toffees and Sweetwater Baking Co.'s cinnamon rolls will also make their debut. Market manager Kirsten Van Vlandren said, "I have a sweet tooth."
West Chester Growers Market. Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays from now to Dec. 9 at the municipal parking lot at North Church and West Chestnut Streets. For more information, call 610-869-2791 or go to www.westchestergrowersmarket.com.
West Grove Farmers Market. Manager Henry Stoltzfus has lined up five vendors this season, selling vegetables, honey, plants, jams, and a few unusual locally grown fruits like kiwi, persimmon and Asian pears.
The market specializes in straight-from-the-field produce. "We try to do all our picking in the morning so everything is perfectly fresh," Stoltzfus said.