Despite its aging appearance, the Maryland Food Center Authority continues to invest in upgrades to its Jessup, Md., produce terminal.
The authority, which owns and operates the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market and the Maryland Wholesale Seafood Market, is proceeding with improvements that modernize the produce facility’s two buildings.
Portions of the buildings were constructed in 1974.
The authority plans to renovate canopies that hang over the two buildings’ docks.
The repairing, cleaning and painting of the canopies is expected to commence in early fall, said Rose Harrell, the authority’s director of facilities.
A project to enclose the buildings’ docks was postponed last year because of funding, she said.
After the canopies are repaired, the authority plans to finish installing security cameras as well as an upgraded rodent- and bird-control system, Harrell said.
It also plans to complete replacement of building entry doors with modern doors that meet food safety standards, she said.
Every year, the authority invests close to $1 million in upgrades to the produce and seafood markets, Harrell said.
“The facility is holding up fairly well for its age,” she said.
“We continue to stay on top of the aches and pains it has experienced throughout the years. For being an old facility, it’s very clean and kept well. We want to maintain its integrity.”
In March, the authority hosted an annual meeting of the National Produce Market Managers Association.
The meetings, in nearby Columbia, Md., also featured tours of the produce market and other produce and meat markets in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Harrell said hosting the meetings offered produce market wholesalers a chance to interact with other market wholesalers in the region and throughout the U.S.
Speakers included U.S. Department of Agriculture, Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and Food and Drug Administration officials.
“There was a lot of networking and roundtable discussions among wholesalers and retailers regarding terminal markets and how we can keep our markets up to date,” Harrell said.
Harrell said terminal markets remain important in linking small local growers with retailers.
Distributors play a key role in distributing local produce, which helps the economy, she said.
By distributing the growers’ products to outlets they normally couldn’t send it to, the partnership helps both sides in the deal, Harrell said.
Employing 600 workers, Harrell said the market remains important to the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., economy.
Market wholesaler Tony Vitrano, president of the Tony Vitrano Co. in Jessup, said the market remains healthy.
“It’s fully leased and pretty active,” Vitrano said. “The names and faces sometimes change, but if someone closes, a week later, there’s someone else in that spot.”
The produce market’s 23 produce wholesalers and one seafood company occupy 101 market units.