A Talk with Hyattsville Farmers Market Manager Ellarose Preston

    August 8, 2016

It’s Farmers Market Week (August 7-13), so said the United States Department of Agriculture in an official proclamation. The goal is to encourage Americans to shop at their local farmers markets.

Here in Maryland, we have an abundance of wonderfully-run farmers markets (see the USDA directory here). We thought this week would also be a great opportunity to highlight one of our farmers market managers and learn about her work.

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Ellarose Preston

Meet Ellarose Preston. She is the Farmers Market manager for the City of Hyattsville’s weekly market, which runs 3 to 7 p.m., Tuesdays from June to September.

Ellarose took over the market just three years ago. It had been ongoing for two decades, but the farmer who started it didn’t want to continue. The Hyattsville Mayor and Council stepped in to keep a wonderful tradition going.

But — they needed someone to run it. At the time, Ellarose was the wellness coordinator for the city. She was open to adding the market to her roster of job responsibilities, and just like that, she became a farmers market manager.

Ellarose had just earned a Masters in nutrition. She had some fresh ideas for how to keep the market going while providing a crucial service to a food-insecure community.

Ellarose moved the market to its current location in the parking lot of Redeemer Lutheran Church (at the corner of East West Highway and Queens Chapel Road in Hyattsville, Prince George’s County).

She also changed the hours, giving working families time to make it to the market after work. Ellarose sought out new vendors, eventually tripling the number of stands. She also began to use the off-season to apply for grants and provide vouchers to shoppers willing to take a “nutrition tour” with Ellarose or one of her summer helpers. The vouchers are worth $10 at the beginning of the season and are reduced to $5 as they run low on funds near the end.

Ellarose said that she doesn’t tie the vouchers to supplemental nutrition programs like other markets because she wants everyone to have the opportunity to have a little extra spending money at the market. This may include undocumented families who don’t qualify for federal or state aid.

The tours are an important way for Ellarose to talk to residents about understanding the nutritional benefits of eating fresh food. She also talks about proper food storage and how to stretch a budget when buying fresh.

Ellarose also loves experimenting with recipes and having samples and tastings for her Hyattsville shoppers. She makes seasonal items — things that shoppers can buy at the market same day. She also demonstrates preparation methods. One week she might have a beet juice latte, another she’ll offer a spiralized raw sweet potato salad. (We’ve included two of Ellarose’s recipes. Scroll down below the video. They’re delish!).

Ellarose tries to balance the needs of farmers and other vendors who sell direct-to-consumer with shoppers who may be coming home from work,  hungry, and in search of hot or prepared foods.

“It’s a delicate dance of maintaining vendors and shoppers,” she said.

For the area, which is considered a food desert, with many low income and undocumented residents, the farm market has become not just a place for food, but a place for the community to gather.

Every third Tuesday there is a yoga class. In the spring, she organizes a strawberry festival; in late summer, there’s the peach festival.

Ellarose said the best part of her job is seeing people pleased.

“When they’re there, my mission, my goal, is to provide access to fresh, nutritious food,” she said.

Visit the Hyattsville farmers Market on Facebook and Instagram to learn about the latest events, vendors and activities.

Enjoy this video from the City of Hyattsville:

Farmers Market from HCTV on Vimeo.

Recipes (PDF) with tips and nutritional facts:

• Sweet Potato Salad
• Beet Juice

Happy farmers market shopping! Share your favorite recipes in the comments.

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