News & Community

This Baltimore Mom Turned a Family Trip to the Farmers Market Into a Lifelong Tradition

To honor her late father, lovingly known as "Farmer Bill," Erica Wood forged a meaningful connection with the Baltimore Farmers Market beneath the JFX.

When her daughter was just six months old, local graphic designer Erica Wood was struck with an idea: on the Sunday closest to her late father’s birthday that April, she decided to bring her daughter, Alice, and her husband, Matthew, to the Baltimore Farmer’s Market to peruse the produce and shop from local vendors.

Wood’s eldest daughter is now eleven, and her family hasn’t missed a birthday visit to the market since the very first.

To Wood, this tradition is more than just a means of purchasing plants to kickstart her backyard garden for cropping season. It’s a way of keeping her father’s memory alive.

“Growing up, my father spent all of his free time in the garden,” Wood recalls. “He worked for the public health service, so he was in uniform at his job. But as soon as he wasn’t working, he was in some kind of T-shirt, suspenders, and jeans. It really was his passion. He was sick on and off my entire life, so he did this as a way to stay grounded. If he could have, he would have made it his full-time job.”

For years, Wood’s father was known to the community as “Farmer Bill.” He was dedicated to cultivating their family farm in the Davidsonville area, where he grew cucumbers, Vidalia onions, Silver Queen corn, and tomatoes (Erica’s personal favorite), just to name a few.

Farmer Bill befriended the owners of a local nursery down the road, who began to sell his produce. “From there, he really pushed the farmers market thing. He sold all over,” Wood remarks, beaming.

Often, he would take his family out into the backyard with big bowls to gather fresh vegetables for dinner. He took pride in being able to provide for them in this way. Other times, he even brought his produce to work with him, unloading it right in the office for his co-workers to enjoy. These are some of Wood’s favorite memories.

“I do the same thing now,” she says, reflecting on the ways in which her father’s passion lives on in her.

Suffice it to say, a Sunday trip to one of Baltimore’s most beloved farmers markets is the ideal way to honor Farmer Bill’s legacy, and the role he played in the community.

The effort that Wood has put toward keeping this tradition going strong for more than a decade comes from a desire to celebrate life and—fittingly—growth. She wants to show others that there are uplifting ways of keeping the memories of our loved ones alive.

“This is a way I do it for my father, and my kids and my husband,” she says. “They never got to meet him, but this is my way of bridging that gap. They see what was important to my dad—the gardening and selling—and what’s important to me.”

On top of that, Wood’s tradition acts as a way to stay connected with the vibrant community of local farmers and growers in Baltimore, many of whom she has become friendly with over the years.

“When I go to the farmers market, I’ll buy plants and produce from the vendors, and that means a lot to me,” she says. “I know they put a lot of care into it just like my dad did.”

This past year, Farmer Bill’s April 14 birthday happened to fall exactly on a Sunday—the perfect day for a trip to the market. Wood took a photo with her two daughters, Alice (11) and Evelyn (8), under I-83 to commemorate the day, as she does every year. Wood’s collection of photos from each stage of her life allows her to visually share her tradition with family and friends near and far.

“It’s like Christmas, it’s like a holiday to do this,” Wood says with a smile. “My garden is full, and everything is in its place.”