Photo via Druid Hill Farmer’s Market/Facebook

Warm weather is back, and fresh fruits and veggies are again appearing at farmer’s market stands around the city. For Druid Hill Park, the weekly summertime tradition returns this Wednesday outside the Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens.

Kate Blom, director of the conservatory and one of the market’s founders, describes it as “not just a market. It’s a meeting place for the community.”

A collaborative effort between the Friends of Druid Hill Park, the Rawlings Conservatory and the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, the Druid Hill Farmer’s Market runs from 3:30-7:30 p.m. every Wednesday of the summer. In addition to offering a prime destination for Central and West Baltimore residents to buy fresh-grown produce, baked goods and homemade crafts, the market also hosts activities for families.

Some of the options: free live music and movies (both monthly), guided bike rides, yoga and aerobics sessions from Baltimore Yoga Village and MissionFit, respectively, and “story time” reading sessions for wee ones. (Baltimore Del. Nick Mosby will be the designated reader this week.)

The Rawlings Conservatory also extends its hours until 7 p.m. each time, letting market-goers come take in some of the breathtaking scenery from inside the historic Victorian greenhouse building.

Blom said the market has expanded in scope and audience since it began in 2011.

“I can’t tell you how wonderful it has been as an instrument to connect this park and the conservatory with all of the neighborhoods around the park,” she said. “It’s engaged more people and provided more services every year, in addition to its basic cause, which was providing food for the neighborhood.”

Photo via Druid Hill Farmer’s Market/Facebook

A 2015 map developed by John Hopkins University researchers and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability indicated all but two of the eight neighborhoods bordering Druid Hill Park were considered “food deserts.” The label applies to places where residents must travel more than a quarter-mile to reach the nearest supermarket, the median household income equals or exceeds 185 percent of the federal poverty standard, more than 30 percent of dwellers don’t have a car and the average store lacks healthy options.

Community groups and businesses have worked to bridge those nutritional gaps in neighborhoods around the city. Some have appealed to lawmakers in Annapolis to enact policies promoting healthier options at corner stores. In Greenmount West, another food desert, Open Works and Two Moons Food Group partnered up this year to bring a new weekly market to the neighborhood. It began yesterday.

Blom said Druid Hill Farmer’s Market organizers have implemented a strict “first-produced” policy, meaning vendors must grow the items they’re selling, rather than buy them from a distributor. The same is true for the crafts sold there, she said. “It’s really nice stuff. There’s a wonderful spirit.”

The market accepts credit and debit cards, as well as federal SNAP dollars. Most vendors also take WIC Fruit and Vegetable checks and Farmers’ Market Nutrtition Program vouchers, and the market participates in the Maryland Market Money incentive program, which offers up to five dollars in matching funds to shoppers using three types of federal nutrition benefits.

The Friends of Druid Hill Park, a group founded in 2009 that supports and promotes the park, “has really kept it going” since the market’s first year, Blom said. “It’s become that anchor we have in the community.”

The Druid Hill Farmer’s Market happens everyday Wednesday from 3:30-7:30 p.m. outside the Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens at 3100 Swann Drive. This year, it runs from June 7 through Sept. 27. More info on vendors and activities here.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...