With help from Montgomery County, Councilmember Andrew Friedson, Governor Larry Hogan, and Federal Realty, Central Farm Markets and its Pike Central Farm Market at Pike & Rose thrived in 2020, despite the pandemic.
Mitch Berliner, owner and founder of the fifteen-year-old Central Farm Market said that other jurisdictions, such as Virginia, closed farmers markets, but Maryland and Montgomery County realized that farmers markets were essential to maintain the local food chain and keep local farmers farming.
“Bottom line, I’m super proud of how we handled the pandemic,” said Mitch. “We put in our own protocols before there were protocols. We enforced mask-wearing before the county did, and our patrons were extremely cooperative. As soon as we opened Pike Central in April and in our Bethesda market, we installed signs reminding people to social distance, eliminated sampling, and had one entrance/one exit to control the number of people shopping at the market. We also added prepared food ranging from Asian to vegan to Ethiopian, helping chefs and restaurants to stay afloat.”
Pike Central also offered contactless pickup and began a “farm-to-fridge” program. With volunteer help from ProFish, they’ve made thousands of deliveries since April.
Because the number of food insecure residents in Montgomery County has doubled during the pandemic, co-owner and founder Debbie Moser and Mitch made a $25,000 challenge gift to Manna Food Center, which farm market patrons generously matched. They also send produce to Manna weekly.
“I didn’t sign up for this as my retirement project; it’s not as much fun during Covid,” laughed Mitch, “but I absolutely love, love, love doing the markets.”
The Pike Central market returns to Pike & Rose April 24, but you can shop at their Sunday Bethesda Central Farm Market all year round.