End of an era for Smithsburg farm market

SMITHSBURG — A round wooden sign by the highway read “Cold sweet cider.”

There were baskets of Fuji, McIntosh, Gala, Cortland, Stayman, Jonagold and Rome apples among displays of peppers, pears and squashes.

But there were no traditional pumpkins at Lewis Orchards & Farm Market this month. The absence of the September staple was a subtle sign of what was coming Sunday, the last day for the farm market that operated on Jefferson Boulevard for more than 50 years.

“It’s bittersweet. It’s hard to let go of something that you’ve known your whole life, that your parents have known their whole life,” said Sherryl (Lewis) Shriver.

Construction on a High’s Dairy Store is expected to begin soon, replacing the farm market in the Cavetown area south of Smithsburg.

A sign about the coming convenience store has stood on the property for a year, at least. Another, more recent sign, notes the stand was closing for good on Sunday.

The Lewis family entered the growing season this year not knowing exactly when convenience store officials would want to start construction, so the family scaled back offerings at the farm market and didn’t plant pumpkins, Shriver said.

The family will continue to operate the orchard and have a wholesale business, Shriver said. They will sell their produce at various farmers markets and have their pick-your-own strawberry patch next spring, she said.

Shriver said the market’s closing was a sign of the times.

“People don’t can and do the things they used to do,” she said.

The stand still had many customers, but rather than buying two or three bushels of an item, they typically bought small amounts, enough to get through the week, Shriver said.

Asked about the effect of the competing produce market across the street, Shriver said there are only so many customers to spread around.

Lewis’ farm market has sold mostly fruits and some vegetables during the years, starting with strawberries in spring and ending with apples in autumn, Shriver said.

In between, the family business grew or attempted to grow and sell everything else, including a not-so-successful attempt to sell okra, Shriver said.

“That didn’t fly with the people in Washington County,” she said.

Apples were the main commodity Sunday.

Some of the crates featured her father’s name, Nevin K. Lewis. He was at a Baltimore farmer’s market on Sunday so Shriver was supervising the market.

Shriver said she doesn’t work at the market full time. She and her brothers have other jobs.

Shriver works at the Funkstown Post Office. Her younger brother, Steven, is a Frederick County firefighter, and her older brother, Kevin, is a Maryland state trooper.

Customers streamed in and out early Sunday afternoon. Several of those interviewed said they were not regulars, but stopped by the market a few times a year.

Ernie Everitt, 73, of Hagerstown, said he stops by a couple times a year, for strawberries in the spring and later for peaches and apples.

It’s a little bit of a drive from Hagerstown, but it’s worth it, Everitt said.

Becky Smith, of Smithsburg, said she stopped at the market a couple times a month because of its convenience and prices.

“My mom used to work here,” said Smith, the daughter of Sharon Smith.

Tim Pickard, of York, Pa., said he used to stop by the market on the way to Shepherd College, now Shepherd University, when his daughter, Cara, was a student there in the late 1990s.

On Sunday Pickard stopped by with his son, Matt, and grandson, Jack, 10.

The visit was made “on a whim,” Matt Pickard said. Jack was munching on a Fuji apple given to him by Shriver.

“It’s good,” he said.

Mary King, 57, of Hagerstown, said she usually cooks for just one or two people, so she would stop at the market to get one or two items.

“I never felt like ‘Geez, that’s all you’re buying?'” King said.

Ken Little, 47, of Smithsburg, said the market’s prices were more reasonable than most. He said his first job was picking strawberries at the orchard when he was 15.

“They’ve had good, quality stuff through the years,” said Linda Harrison, 52, of Cascade. Harrison, who cans, said she stopped by two to three times each summer.

On Sunday, Harrison stopped by for apples to make pies, dumplings, sauce and butter. She freezes the pies and dumplings, and bakes them in the winter.

“It’s a shame because they’ve been in business a lot of years,” Harrison said.

The orchard is a fifth-generation business, Shriver said.

The fruit stand was built in 1957, Shriver said. Before that, the family had a stand nearby, between Paden Avenue and where Cavetown Storage sheds now stand, she said.

Reminded by her brother Steven, via phone, Shriver said there were family stories of her grandmother going to the Hagerstown Farmers Market, via horse and buggy, to sell produce.

Shriver’s mom, Shirley, said the well wishes the family have been receiving recently made them feel good.

She pointed out a card that dozens of customers signed and a note from Mark Jameson on a bulletin board.

“Smithsburg won’t be the same. You have been a landmark for generations of people. We will miss you. Thanks for all of your great food and friendly service,” Jameson wrote.

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