Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food….

We’ve been waiting for the Wentworth Greenhouses to kick off the Winter Farmers’ Market because we were in the market for fresh cut Brussels sprouts for our Thanksgiving table. The Thanksgiving menu has been planned. We’ve pre-ordered our turkey, our Edwards Virginia ham is on the way, and now we need our vegetables. We’ve come to the right place……

I was startled by the first person I encountered as I crossed the parking lot. He was a jolly old fella who laughed when I asked for his photo. The Christmas Season was definitely not on my mind today…. but, hey, St. Nick must celebrate Thanksgiving, too.  He had a big bag of produce that he carefully loaded into his sleigh…. errr….trunk.

Farmers’ Markets are still somewhat new to me. At the entrance, I surveyed the marketplace. The scene reminded me a little of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The area was packed with hustle, bustle, buying and selling, but there was a big difference here. There were no agitated, impatient, loud folks in this room. Shoppers of all ages, adults and children, sampled wares, stood patiently in line, mingled, laughed and chatted with the growers. Sights, earthy aromas, and textures permeated the throughout. Everyone was having fun.

No, I did not sample the raw goat milk but I couldn’t pass up the goat milk soap!

The sign with the pastas listed such amazing flavors as herb pappardelle, spinach fettuccine, garlic scapes linguine, lemon basil linguine, potato chives casarecci, squid ink spaghettini and more. I would like to sample them all.

So after mingling, sampling, buying, connecting with the growers and admiring their wares for over an hour, we purchased our fresh Brussels sprouts and made our way to the car.  Thank you to Wentworth Greenhouses and Seacoast Eat Local for providing fresh from the farms for local folks and a day’s entertainment…. of foods, crafts and rooms full of festive Christmas plants and adornments. I swooned over the glorious winterberry (Ilex verticillata), my favorite holiday trimming.

California Farmer’s Market

Easter morning was spent browsing the wide variety and kaleidoscopic colors of fruits and vegetables at a neighborhood Farmer’s Market. Just wandering from booth to booth was a visual circus for the senses. A photo sampling of our adventure is much more desirable than words. We hope to see some of these wonderful vegetables in our own New Hampshire gardens before too long!

20120408-232233.jpg

20120408-232255.jpg

20120408-232309.jpg

20120408-232333.jpg

20120408-232348.jpg

20120408-232411.jpg

20120408-232429.jpg

20120408-232451.jpg

20120408-232503.jpg

20120408-232531.jpg

20120408-232550.jpg

20120408-232605.jpg

20120408-232624.jpg

20120408-232647.jpg

Winter Farmers’ Market

We just arrived home from the Winter Farmers’ Market in Rollingsford NH. It was an indescribable experience so I’ll say it mostly with pictures.

Days are growing longer by almost 3 minutes a day, one of the farmers told me. Did you know that winter greens thrive on these lengthening days? We found plenty of greens at the market, such as different kales, lettuces, bok choy, and beet greens. We found carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, and winter squash galore. There were also rudabagas and beets.

The mother and daughter team selling at this booth were bee keepers and vegetable growers. It is mainly a one woman operation with help from her daughter when she is home from school. This farmer said she worked from 9 am to 9 pm harvesting vegetables yesterday. We bought her honey.

I didn’t expect so much meat to be available. They offered organic beef, pork, chicken, and lamb. Yes, mister gardener could not pass up the pork spare ribs and a few strip steaks.

Did you know that beans are one of the world’s oldest foods? I’d never seen such variety. Have you ever heard of Marfax, True Red Cranberry, or Yellow Eye beans? These beans are a lot fresher than the ones in the grocery store that could be years old.

Lengthening daylight also brings an abundance of eggs. Locally raised eggs are amazing, full of flavor and nutrition. The farmers were quick to tell me their chickens are treated humanely. I thought the colors of the eggs were gorgeous.

The eggs we ended up buying were quail eggs. This farmer raises 3 varieties of quail and was excited to talk about each. I wonder which one laid my eggs.

We evidenced cookies, doughnuts, granola (tasty samples). We could have had breakfast or lunch of cheeses, pastas, crepes, soup, milk, yogurt and a breakfast sandwich that looked hot and delicious. We settled on crepes…. savory with organic cheeses and herbs for mister gardener and, alas, Nutella for me.

There were many bread bakers and we love bread. We choose some whole wheat yeast rolls for dinner tonight.

Author Kathy Gunst was cooking up a storm and serving samples of several different recipes from her newest cookbook. Mister gardener loved the roasted root vegetable and lettuce salad but this bean dish was delicious, too.

“It’s an award winner,” the owner said as she handed us samples of her maple syrup. Couldn’t pass this up! Our bags were getting heavy: meats, cookbook, bread, honey, maple syrup (and candy), eggs.

Rugs, slippers, blankets, mittens, hand-dyed wool was all prepared by this happy farmer. She loves her craft and it shows.

Finally, we stopped to enjoy the music of MiKe & MiKe who now have Lily Hope sleeping through the entire show.  Mike Morris, guitarist and Heather Mike, fiddler, entertained the crowds with foot stomping high-energy folk music. What a treat!

Farmers Markets

Tomatoes (USDA OPC)

Image via Wikipedia

We all love our farmers markets and we’re delighted to have an area market, the Williamsburg Farmers Market, voted as one of the top 3 medium-sized markets in the nation by their patrons in an American Farmland Trust contest. According to a recent New York Times article, there may be a glut of farmers markets in parts of the country and profits are shrinking as markets compete.  Are they reaching a saturation point?  Farmers markets in America grew by 17% in 2010 according to Bloomberg Business Week and have tripled since the mid-90’s according to the USDA. The New York Times states that 1,043 markets were established this year alone.

The glut may be more acute in larger populated areas like Seattle and San Francisco, perhaps with a marketing technique of a coffee shop on every corner. In Gloucester county, there are two official farmers markets and a number of other individual markets along our country roads touting vegetables, fruits, jellies and fresh-baked goods. To top it off, we now have Walmart vowing to double sales of locally grown produce. In Gloucester, they are carrying locally grown melons.

All this may be good for the customer who is looking for the best, the freshest, organically grown produce but what does this say about the future of farmers markets? Have the number of farmers markets outpaced demand? What do you think? Perhaps only the farmers can say for sure.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester