I love farmer’s markets.
Beginning in May, our local farmer’s market opens bright and early each Saturday morning. I’ll admit, during farmer’s market season, I get up earlier than I do during the week. With total excitement, my feet hit the floor running! I plop on my hat, grab my market basket, and push my beloved out the door to see what’s waiting downtown.
We’re lucky in that we have a successful farmer’s market that’s been a part of our Main Street program for many years and it rocks! With a rotation of local farmers, bakers, artisans, crafters, and the occasional non-profit bake sale, every weekend is a different blend of vendors.
There’s just something special about being able to drive downtown and buy fresh produce, all while mingling among friends and dogs of every size. Our beagle loves going to the farmer’s market. The farmers know him, and he loves all the smells. Tiny tots gravitate to him, as he’s nearly their size. After we adopted him, he quickly discovered that there were ample opportunities to be adored. We don’t take him every week, but when we do, he loves every minute.
Some of the vendors have become dear friends. Each week, we catch up on what we’re canning or planting in the backyard. I love being able to ask questions about the produce directly from the person who grew it. They’ve learned how important it is to me that no chemicals have been used, and they know that I appreciate and support their hard work. They’re a kindred group of old souls.
Each week, we park on 5th Street in front of the First United Methodist Church. We enter the market, stroll along the rows of tents, and make our first purchase of homemade bread from Earth’s Bounty Bakery. Owner/baker Paul always has an incredible display of bread: sour dough, honey wheat, pumpernickel, and french loaves. His granola is out of this world and often discussed at dinner parties. Whenever we go out, there’s always at least one conversation about Paul’s granola whether its spring, winter, or fall! But then everything that comes from his tent is wonderful. It’s easy to fill my basket just from his products.
From there, we wander along the artisan booths. Handmade jewelry, scarves, and crafts of any style are for sale. We’ve purchased a few of the craft items, but not much. My mind is too entirely focused on finding some canning/preservation project to truly appreciate what the artisans are offering. Thankfully, my beloved appreciates their wares and spends more time poking around.
Then we head over to the Hillyard Field Organics tent. We’re incredibly lucky to have a truly organically-certified farm right here in Calloway County. Karly and Brad have amazing produce, as well as USDA-inspected meats. (I love their sausage – it has a spicy kick that’s amazing!) I know they’ve grown everything for sale under their tent. For other vendors that isn’t the case. It doesn’t matter to many customers, but for us, it’s incredibly important. I’m willing to wait for fresh tomatoes. But that’s the beauty of the farmer’s market: it has something for everyone. And that’s why our market is packed every Saturday morning.
This year, we decided that we wanted to support Brad and Karly’s farm beyond our weekly purchases at the farmer’s market, so we enrolled in their Community Support Agriculture (CSA) program. For 20 weeks, we receive a generous portion of their in-season produce. It’s like Christmas every Tuesday afternoon when we go out to their farm to get our basket. The first couple of weeks, we were overwhelmed with the amount produce! But now, we’ve gotten into the swing of it. Besides, it’s a blessing to open our fridge and see all the wonderful organic produce locally raised by dear friends. We love sharing recipes with other CSA members. You can find lots of great recipes on their Facebook page.
Our last stop is always Stubblefield Farms, where I’ve dubbed the owner Kritt my “meat dealer.” Kritt always has a yarn to spin, and I love listening to every word. We started buying beef from him a couple of years ago and, except for rare occasions, haven’t purchased beef from the grocery since. While the internet was full of news about disgusting pink slime, we were grateful to have a freezer full of Kritt’s locally-raised beef. Last summer we purchased a 1/4 steer from him. He and I talked about the steer all summer long. He regaled me with stories and photos (which I loved). My beloved couldn’t handle it. He didn’t grow up on a working farm like I did, where you quickly learned to respect where meat came from. Kritt has taught me a lot about cooking beef, and believe me, he knows what he’s talking about — when you follow his instructions it simply melts in your mouth.
You may find it ironic that I love going to the farmer’s market each week and then come home to play in my own garden. But our precious veggie patch can only grow so much. Plus we’re still novices at gardening. Our crops aren’t a reliable food source — yet. Last year, we only produced about a dozen tomatoes from our 16 plants. So I buy in bulk at the market, which is perfect for canning or freezing, insuring that we have plenty of farm-fresh food and memories of the market all year.