Farmers markets are starting to remind me of past boyfriends – just when you get to know them, they change. Let’s face it, there are farmers markets and then there are the big boys, like Santa Monica, Chicago, Santa Fe, Seattle, Portland, New York City… (just to mention a few of my favs). But at the top of my list has always been the Waitsfield Farmers Market in the Mad River Valley of Vermont.
The Waitsfield Market is as popular as ever, but for me, this past weekend, it just wasn’t the same. We strolled as a family, selected beautiful produce for our dinner and enjoyed our time, but the magic was not there for any of us. The local wood and metal artist no longer has a booth; the woman who hand-painted salad bowls has sold her business and moved on; my daughter’s favorite crepe maker was gone without a trace; and the live music directed toward young children, which once I’m sure I enjoyed, simply made me sad to realize that my own girls have grown too old for rhyming lyrics set to the strum of a ukulele.
I’m not breaking up with the Waitsfield Farmers Market and look forward to returning in a few weeks to stock up on maple syrup and perhaps some local craft beer, but in the meantime, I’ve started wondering, what would the perfect farmers market look like? And this is what I came up with.
1. Local farmers: two or three purveyors selling a variety of organic (or cleanly grown) fruits and vegetables.
2. Locally produced and foraged items: mushrooms, honey, maple syrup, jams, herbs, flowers, seedlings…
3. Locally made artisan food products: perhaps some goat cheese, hot sauces, fermented foods, breads and specialty items that inspire (some I’ve come across include dried hot peppers, tea and herb blends, dehydrated and powdered leeks, infused sugars and honeys…).
4. Specialty cheese. Just in case you didn’t pick that up from my previous post, my family wants to make sure I put this in here.
5. Fruit pies. If there are pies at a market, I’ll buy one, every time. Pies are the quintessential summer dessert, and while I can make one anytime, I can enjoy a day with my family and still serve dessert if I buy a pie at the farmers market.
6. Live music. Just about any style (evidently, with minimal rhyming) is an excuse to relax and stay awhile (maybe even eat that pie before I leave!).
7. Gift items. I love meeting local artists and seeing their crafts, plus I always need a gift for someone (or a splurge for myself).
8. Community. I want to connect with what’s going on in the community and learn about different causes and organizations each week.
9. Crepes. Okay, so maybe this one isn’t essential at every farmers market, but it’s such a family tradition for us that I had to include it in my dream market.
10. Sunshiney Days…because sometimes I’m on the other side of the tent sampling clean food recipes and signing cookbooks and I without a doubt, rain and humidity don’t mix well with paper books!
What are some of YOUR favorite farmers markets and farmers market vendors? Perhaps if we dream them together, they will happen!
Eat clean live well!
Thirteen women covered in bread flour, eleven mason jars filled with wild-fermented sourdough starters, 150 minutes of kneading, 500 degrees in the oven and two and a half hours of education, inspiration and fun…that was last week’s sourdough-bread-making workshop and what a blast it was!
I could wax on about the health benefits of fermenting dough, how kneading sometimes feels like meditation, and the magic of mixing starter, flour, water and salt to yield a delicious, light and chewy sourdough bread, but none of those things can compare to sharing it all with a kitchen full of friends, both old and new. Cap it off by devouring two freshly baked loaves of sourdough bread with organic extra virgin olive oil for dipping, and now you have the most perfect day.
To some, I suppose it’s just another loaf of bread. But add to it the richness of this clean food community, and to me, it is manna from heaven.
Eat clean live well,
In this place ruled by ranchers, food trucks and cowboy boots, I found slow food, rich mineralized urban soil, and a love of and respect for the land and all it provides. I found these things at Metier Cook’s Supply, at Lenoir Restaurant, at the SFC Farmers Market, and most notably, at Boggy Creek Farm.
This house, the homestead at Boggy Creek, was built in 1841 and is the first home built in Austin that is still standing. The land, one city block equal to 5 acres, was the spinach capital of Texas back in the 30’s, and has been farmed for the past 21 years by Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler.
Since 2000, when I met farmers Mike Kandefer and Tony Norris, I have been drawn to Urban Oaks Organic Farm and have felt very much a part of the fabric that keeps the farm going. Here, in urban Austin, is another year-round gem of a farm. How do they remain sustainable? Farmer Carol Ann, once a painter by trade, painted me a clear picture and inspired me with her knowledge, dedication, wisdom, integrity and heart.
As I’ve been preparing my own garden this spring, I have been questioning: Should I till? Should I weed? Is compost enough? What amendments does my soil require? Carol Ann was practical and wise, opting against deep tilling in favor or “tickle tilling” just the top layer. Her soil, recently tested and compared to other local farms, came out on top having the best microbial activity. And after 21 years of paying for organic certification, she decertified. “Customers simply don’t care.” she said. “They know me, and knowing your farmer is more important than a piece of paper.” Their compost is rich and smoking. Their cover crop comes from edibles like purslane and arugula. And their produce is abundant, grown in harmony with the environment and beautiful.
I could have stayed all afternoon talking with Carol Ann and touring Boggy Creek, but I had to let her go inside and prepare the end-of-the-day meal for the farm workers that she prepares every day. Next time I’ll make sure that my schedule allows me to help prepare and share that meal with Carol Ann and the Boggy Creek Farm family.
Until that next visit, eat clean live well Austin!