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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Creating Community at Central Farm Market

Jul 01, 2015 12:22AM
A 40-plus year career in the food business may just be the perfect prelude for the latest venture for the husband and wife team, Mitch Berliner and Debra Moser. Each week throughout the spring, summer and fall (and all-year in Bethesda), they run Central Farm Markets, which operates at three separate locations. Their markets are in Bethesda, Rockville (at Pike & Rose) and in the Mosaic District in Fairfax.

The Bethesda market was their first and was established in 2008. Berliner had a long history, first in setting up and running farm stands, and had gone on to own the largest frozen food distribution company in the mid-Atlantic. When he sold his companies in 2008 and “retired”, a fortuitous call to the property manager of a vacant lot in Bethesda turned into his next business venture.

While the property managers agreed that it was an excellent spot for a farm market, they needed someone to start it up. Berliner and Moser established the market that same year with 17 vendors. Within a few years, they outgrew that space, moved around to different locations before settling in at the parking lot at Bethesda Elementary—now with 63 weekly vendors each Sunday morning.

Soon after, Moser left her position as the executive director of VisArts in Rockville to help Berliner and to launch another food-related venture, Meat Crafters. With ideas on transforming charcuterie, they begin making crafted salamis and artisanal sausages, and now supply many of the area high-groceries, as well as selling them at each of the farm markets.

The market at Pike & Rose, in Rockville, has moved over the four years it has been operating to accommodate the massive construction project that is now taking place. Once completed in 2016, the market will be back at its original location along Rockville Pike. In the meantime, joining the 40 vendors at Pike & Rose is a Walking Club, where a professional trainer brings an hour of cardio and strength training each Saturday at 9 a.m.

Most recently, Central Farm Markets has opened at the Mosaic District, in Fairfax, just two years ago. Berliner and Moser had been approached to launch a new market in that area for several years and finally found the space in their busy lives to establish this new spot. In these two years, it has grown substantially with 43 vendors coming each Saturday.

The best part of each market is the community feel generated as neighbors come together. “It is like a like a town square. People like to come and sit down—have a cup of coffee and visit with their friends. They can spend time and enjoy prepared foods, music and activities for the kids. We also have chef demos and wineries that people can enjoy,” Moser notes. “It is becoming a part of many families’ morning routines—bring the kids and the dogs. Everyone is welcome.”

While each of the markets has a slightly different flair, all support local farmers and food artisans, hailing from the northern neck of Virginia up to Pennsylvania and everywhere in between. The beauty of local foods, besides the freshness of produce that hasn’t been shipped across the country, is that local businesses and farmers are supported. There is enough variety at each market that families can do all of their weekly shopping in one stop. Any leftovers are donated to the local nonprofit, MANNA, and are used to serve those who don’t have access to farm fresh foods throughout the city.

For more information about Central Farm Markets, visit


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