“The Maryland Wholesale Produce Market is operated by the Maryland Food Center Authority,” Rose M. Harrell, director of facilities for the MWPM told The Produce News. “It is directed by a 12 member executive board that is appointed by the Governor of Maryland.”
The market, located in Jessup, MD, is an approximate 400-acre site that is home to some major companies, such as SYSCO Food Services of Baltimore, T.A. Baltimore South, Merchants Terminal, BTS Distribution Centers, Terminal Corporation and the Maryland Wholesale Produce and Seafood Markets.
Giant Foods was previously a tenant on the market, but it moved its operation to another location in the past year, taking with it a notable portion of the 3,500 people who were employed at the MWPM. Virtually every category of fruits, vegetables and seafood are processed, packaged and distributed through the Maryland Food Center into the Mid-Atlantic region.
“We have 30 tenants now,” Harrell pointed out, “which is one up from a year ago. These are a combination of produce merchandisers and logistics’ companies. Space goes quickly when it becomes available here.”
The new tenant is L & R Trading Group Inc., a wholesale produce company.
The MWPM opened its doors in the mid-1970s, as what was at the time a cutting-edge food market. The MFCA, MWPM, its board of directors and the tenants all take keeping the facility updated very seriously. Major projects are always in the works and others are in the planning stages. Harrell said that in the past year, the market has been working on its security camera project.
“This is a major project, but is necessary,” said Harrell. With owning and operating two wholesale markets, the MFCA has to understand and monitor regulations affecting both the produce and seafood industries. The security cameras are important due to the need for seamless food safety and security. We are also now working with an engineering company for plans to bring the dock canopy up to the condition that will meet audit requirements.”
The access systems, along with security cameras monitoring the docks and parking areas, provide the market grounds and facility with different levels of security. Harrell said that with the Federal Department of Agriculture Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, tenants are looking to be ahead of the game when the final regulations come out by implementing new internal controls for food-safety and sanitary conditions.
Last year, the MFCA completed a $780,000 roof replacement project on both market buildings.
“And we have resumed the composting program at market,” said Harrell. “This is one aspect of our commitment to sustainability and the environment.”
The MWPM has supported the Capital Area Food Bank for more than 20 years. Harrell said the market provides a small area for the bank to collect and record the product it receives.
The organization distributes millions of pounds of food each year to the community through more than 750 member feeding programs and educates thousands of local residents on hunger, poverty and nutrition issues.
It provides food for the hungry in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland, Washington DC, and northern Virginia. The MFCA and the Market tenants are pleased to be able to assist in feeding those who are in need.
“Last year, another non-profit organization, The Baltimore Station, also began receiving donated product from market tenants,” said Harrell. “The organization is a rehabilitation facility that serves mostly veterans.”
As the owner of the MWPM, the MFCA continues to promote the market with involvements in the community with visits to elementary schools, health expositions and other various community outreach programs.
“These activities promote the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Harrell. “We are partners with Produce for Better Health and United Fresh, which enables us to keep current on all aspects of the produce industry. The Jessup Market has become very diverse over the last several years with almost half of the tenants being of Asian and Hispanic ethnicity. With the increased diversity of the surrounding communities, these tenants have helped bring new customers to the market.”