Vendors pull out but customers rise at Farmer's Market

Things looked grim for the Glover Park Burleith Farmer's Market at the start of this season. By the first weekend in June, two vendors had already pulled out and several more were conflicted over whether to stay at a market they praised as well-run and festive, or leave for more lucrative and well-trafficked grounds. Since then, at least two other vendors that were unable to pay their staff have left, too.

But to Lauren Biel, the organizing force behind the Saturday market, things are actually looking up for the two-year-old market. Its size, she said, is stabilizing, and the number of vendors is now closer to the what is appropriate for a 500-customer-a-week market—a number which is up from the 400 customers the market was drawing every Saturday at beginning of the summer.

"I wouldn't say we are where we want to be in the long run," she cautioned, "but things have really picked up."

The vendors which left include Briars Farmstead and Pitango Gelato. The former, which sold organic chicken, could not compete with Whitmore Farms, a top-rated chicken farm which supplies several area restaurants and has a strictly loyal customer base. Pitango Gelato's departure, meanwhile, is more felt. For most of the market's existence, there has been a frozen dessert stand where customers sick of D.C.'s heat could indulge. Biel said she is working on finding a replacement.

However, the market has added vendors, too. A local honey producer has joined the scene, and a local roaster will sell coffee starting in the fall. The market has also brought in more entertainment to keep its feel "festive," Biel said. In the past few weeks, a juggler, live chicks, and chef demos joined the list of live attractions that already included bike clinics and live music.

And Biel has found one more source of encouragement too: the status of the Glover Park Burleith Farmer's Market in a national contest to name "America's Favorite Farmer's Market."

"I'm starting to think of us as the little market that could," Biel said, when the market was in third place in its category nationally. Beating it out was Emmett's Farmer's Market, a two-day-a-week market in Idaho, and a ten-year-old market in New Jersey. "It shows we have a loyal customer base who wants to see us stick around. Everyone is so proud and shocked, like I am, but it's really getting the competitive juices flowing. I feel like this is something we could pull off."

Today, the market is in first place with 388 votes.