STEVENSVILLE — The Kent Island Farmers Market, at Christ Episcopal Church on state Route 8 south in Stevensville for years, moved to the parking lot of the Cult Classic Brewery in Kent Island Shopping Center March 19.
The Rev. Mark Delcuze at Christ Church had orders from his superiors to close the church building, so a new site had to be found.
Jessie and Brooks McNew, owners of Cult Classic, gave permission for the market to move — at least temporarily — to their parking lot, which was not being used as the brewery, which has a bar, is closed and remains closed as part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order in an attempt to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
Motorists driving along U.S. Route 50/301 saw people gathering outside Cult Classic on the afternoon of March 19. Some of them thought the brewery had opened its doors for business as usual, and it appeared with the canopy tents covering the produce stand booths outside in the parking lot there was a party going on.
“People started calling the county commissioners’ office in Centreville reporting Cult Classic was open and selling booze,” county liquor board member Tom Beery said.
Those complaints turned out to be wrong. Cult Classic was not open. Beery went inside to make sure management understood the impressions some people were having as they drove by.
Cult Classic did have a booth outside, but it was selling Cult Classic logo T-shirts and hats.
“We also sold pizza and sealed canned beer containers in compliance with the curb-side purchases that are currently being allowed by the governor’s directions,” said Cult Classic Marketing and Event Planning Manager Rohry Flood. “I want to thank all the vendors who placed their booths more than 6 feet apart from one another outside. We also instructed guests not to handle any of the items, food or merchandise, unless they were going to buy it. We did allow the vendors to come inside to use our restrooms, as many of them were outside for six hours.”
Some people asked if the farmers market had a permit to operate there.
Market coordinator Diane Bedlin said: “We’ve always had a permit. Originally, we hosted the farmers market nine years ago at a different location long ago before moving it to Christ Church. I asked when we moved it there, did we need to get another permit to change locations. I was told no.”
She introduced herself to Beery while he was onsite, and that issue was resolved.
Delcuze also was there briefly. He said, “They were clearly following social distancing protocols, and had hand washing stations for all vendors and participants to use to try to remain sanitized.”
“I had to go there; my wife ordered me to go get some eggs,” he said, adding, “We want the farmers market to return to Christ Church once this crisis is over.”
Bedlin said: “The guys that normally provides eggs for sale ran out this time. Apparently, there weren’t enough eggs at the grocery stores.”
“I had volunteers here walking around to remind patrons to practice social distancing, if needed,” she said. “People were very alert about where they were standing in proximity to one another. I had spoken to all the vendors prior to this day asking if they would have an extra person with them to make sure our patrons don’t have to stand in line. I can’t imagine the confines of any grocery store being able to rearrange the limits they have within the four walls of their stores for their customers. I believe our market layout is serving as a model for the state to follow with other farmers markets.”
Maryland Department of Agriculture issued a letter March 19 listing 15 food-related businesses that were considered “essential” for communities and should be allowed to remain open. Farmers markets and food banks were among those on the list approved by MDA Secretary Joseph Bertenfelder. He recommended those services be open as long as they were complying with standards to be followed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There are not many farmers markets open right now,” Bedlin said. “The one normally held in Chestertown decided not to open. The one normally held it Riverdale was closed because of fear it was going to exceed the limits of having more than 250 people together in closer quarters.”
Two Maryland State Police cars were parked in the Cult Classic parking lot last Thursday, but there were no issues. There was a steady stream of patrons coming and going in an orderly manner.
Among the patrons were Ed and Sharon O’Neill of Tilghman. They regularly drive from Talbot County to buy fresh produce at the farmers market.
“We don’t buy produce at grocery stores anymore,” Ed O’Neill said. “We’ve found the produce here is very fresh and tastes better.”
Among the items being sold, besides produce from several different vendors, were bottled olives and olive oils for cooking and salads; fresh baked cakes and pies; a variety of seafood, including fresh oysters, crab meat and salmon; frozen beef; and cooking wines and sherry.
For more information about the Kent Island Farmers Market, call Bedlin at 410-643-3283. Regular hours are 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays.