If you see me at a Farmer's Market, please don't tap me on the shoulder, wave hi, or shout my name through the crowd of shoppers and vendors. I won't acknowledge you. It's not that I'm rude; I'm just in the zone: my place of pure focus on food where I'm formulating questions for farmers, cataloging the goods of each vendor, calculating the challenge of cooking with a new ingredient, deliberating ingredients for memorized "local" recipes. And I must stay there—in my zone.
When I lift my reusable fabric grocery bags from the passenger seat, all I can hear is my yoga teacher reminding me to "breathe." From that moment on it's all about that one perfect bunch of homegrown baby carrots, that gem of grass-fed, artisan, aged sharp cheddar cheese, or the most succulent of zucchini.
But the vendor table where I lose all sense of my surroundings, husband, and self is Luginbill Family Farms, our local grass-fed animal farmers. Or as they more eloquently put it: "Luginbill Family Farm specializes in total pasture raised and finished beef and lamb, pasture raised pork, broilers and turkeys and free range eggs."
I love meat, which means I obviously love to eat meat. But after learning about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), unnecessary hormone treatments, and the benefits of grass-fed animals, I couldn't justify eating just any meat. Through Local Harvest, I found Luginbill Family Farm. Since finding them, I've never been a happier meat eater. Of course, I love their products, but I'm grateful, too, that they indulge my barrage of questions and many farm visits where I squeal with delight at seeing the cows happily grazing on the pasture and then exclaim, "I can't wait to eat you!" (My husband finds this ritual quite entertaining.) Buying local, grass-fed meat gives me a natural high I can't fully articulate. I feel more connected to my world, community, and body by knowing exactly where my food comes from, especially my meat (and cheese), my favorite foods.
This issue celebrates local foods, as Arielle Greenberg so enthusiastically does in her essay, but also I wanted to share the ways we can procure local foods and sustain our local economies this summer. Arlan Hess' piece so gracefully describes the connection between consumer, farmer, and product that a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) provides. Andrea Iglar and Katie Hillenbrand describe their Farmer's Markets; both east and west coasts represent! But what I deem the coolest part of this month's issue is that two of my absolute favorite local farmers contributed their Farmer's Market experiences, which I feel brings the issue full circle. So many times we hear from consumers; it's refreshing to hear from the farmers. May this issue inspire you to finally purchase that alien-looking kohlrabi at your local Farmer's Market and use it in your dinner that same night. Or find a local CSA or farmer to support regularly, yearly, and weekly. Cheers to good food, good company, and to the many farmers who make our meals possible!
Arielle Greenberg is the co-author, with Rachel Zucker, of Home/Birth: A Poemic (1913 Press, forthcoming 2011), and author of My Kafka Century (Action Books, 2005), Given (Verse, 2002) and the chapbooks Shake Her (Dusie Kollektiv, 2009) and Farther Down: Songs from the Allergy Trials (New Michigan, 2003). She is co-editor of three anthologies: with Rachel Zucker, Starting Today: 100 Poems for Obama's First 100 Days (Iowa, 2010) and Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections (Iowa, 2008); and with Lara Glenum, Gurlesque (Saturnalia, 2010). Twice featured in Best American Poetry and the recipient of a MacDowell Colony fellowship, she is the founder-moderator of the poet-moms listserv and is an Associate Professor at Columbia College Chicago. Currently she is on sabbatical in Maine and is trying out Mark Bittman's Food Matters eating plan.
No Farms, No Food: Eating Local in Waldo County, Maine by Arielle Greenberg
I'm on sabbatical right now from my college teaching job in Chicago. My sabbatical project involves collecting stories from young farmers and homesteaders--the new back-to-the-landers, I call them--who are making strides towards doing things more self-sufficiently than the average American, growing their own food in closer connection to the earth. I'm collaborating on the project with my husband; our interview subjects live in Waldo County, Maine, a traditionally rural community anchored on its west end in the town of Unity by MOFGA, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and organic certification organization, and on the east end in the town of Belfast (where we live) by the Belfast Co-op, the state's oldest and largest food co-op, with plenty of farmer's markets and farmstands sprinkled in between. Many people here "put up" their own pickles and jams, hunt for their own meat, and gather their own eggs not because it's trendy, but because it's inexpensive, healthy and has long been part of what it means to live here. "Eating local" is not the cause du jour in Waldo County: it's an actual way of life, one of which the citizenry is justifiably proud.
And it's a way of life that resonates deeply with me, which is why I've chosen to document it: I can't quite get over how important these food issues are, and how deeply they impact us, in ways big and small. One popular bumper sticker here reads "NO FARMS / NO FOOD." A catchy rallying cry, I thought, until I stopped to realize that it was actually true: without farmers, there are no vegetables, no fruit. No grains, no eggs. No dairy, no meat. No food. Wow.
Of course, I cared about this stuff before we came to Maine. Back in Chicago, I was a shareholder in a Community Supported Agriculture farm (a CSA) with my family; we bought almost entirely organic produce, some of it from the local farmer's market; we cooked most of our own meals. But even in the heartland that is Illinois, we could not get local milk, produce or eggs most of the year. We were also frustrated at our inability to compost our food waste: we lived in a condo with no green space of our own, so there was no place for a heap, and no garden to use it on. And we resented having to shop at Whole Foods, which shipped pricey, fancy food items from all over the world, but rarely stocked its shelves with locally made products.
I'm sure I don't have to explain to all of you why buying and eating local food is important, but in case anyone needs a refresher, here are some of the highlights: Seasonally-appropriate diets. Fresher food. Fewer viruses trucked in from afar. Less oil used in the trucking. Less oil used because of less plastic packaging. More robust local economies. More small farms, so more biodiversity. Yummier meals.
Given all of this, it is perhaps not surprising that as part of my research, I've ended up digging into--sometimes quite literally--the local food cause, and learning as much as I can from the new farmer friends we made through conducting our interviews. I've made my first-ever blueberry jam from wild organic blueberries we picked ourselves and bought from local farms, washed and prepared raw shrimp fresh from the shrimp boats off our coast, helped neighbors with maple syrup tapping and apple cider pressing, and even managed to get some carrots out of our little backyard plot. And yes, I've composted, shopped almost exclusively at co-ops and farmer's markets, and eaten local food all year round.
In fact, when we first arrived here in Belfast, Maine, it was January, not exactly the height of the growing season here in the Northeast, and yet when I went to make weekend breakfast for my family, I found I was able to fix blueberry pancakes made with almost 100% local ingredients. Not just local, but within an easy driving distance: Day Trip pancakes! It was a delightful revelation to be able to use local ingredients even in the dead of a Maine winter. Local food all year round, not just the farmer's market strawberries in June? Who knew?
You may very well not be able to make these pancakes from locally grown ingredients in your own area (how many of you have access to locally harvested, unbleached sea salt, processed in solar green houses?!), but if we can have a recipe made from 99% local ingredients here in Maine in January, it can happen anywhere. I challenge you to figure out your own go-to recipe you can make with almost exclusively local ingredients any day of the year.
Arielle's Day Trip Blueberry Pancakes
1 cup organic spelt flour (from the Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative in Vassalboro, 44 miles)
1 cup organic whole wheat or other flour (from Crown of Maine)
1 tsp baking powder (not local)
1 tsp baking soda (not local)
¼ tsp natural sea salt (from the Maine Sea Salt Company in Marshfield, 99 miles)
2 organic, free-range eggs (from various local producers, including Village Farm in Freedom, 17 miles)
1 cup organic milk (from Maine's Own Organic Milk Company in Augusta, 45 miles)
1 cup organic yogurt (I often use vanilla or maple-flavored, from various local producers, including Smith Family Farm on Mount Desert Island, 53 miles)
2 tbsp organic butter (from Kate's Homemade Butter in Old Orchard Beach, 122 miles)
½ cup or more organic frozen blueberries (from Stoneset Farm in Brooklin, 48 miles)
½ tsp vanilla (not local)
Canola oil for the pan (from Maine Natural Oils in Presque Isle, 195 miles)
Organic maple syrup (from Strawberry Hill Farms in Skowhegan, 53 miles)
Heat cast-iron pan over medium heat. Mix dry ingredients together. Beat the eggs into the milk and mix into dry ingredients. Stir vanilla into the yogurt and mix into batter. Add the blueberries. Mix until combined but not necessarily smooth, careful not to squish the berries too much. Add oil to pan and wait until it's hot. Pour batter into pan, making sure not to crowd your pancakes. Flip after two minutes or when bubbles are rising to the surface of the pancake; cook for two minutes more on other side and serve with plenty of syrup!
Cherry Valley Organics: A Healthier CSA by Arlan Hess
When I became a vegetarian, I didn't like vegetables. I had never liked meat all that much--hated steak unless it was charred through and through—and had grown tired of chicken and pasta. At the same time I was transitioning to a plant-based diet, I was teaching an essay called "An Animal's Place" in which Michael Pollan contends that one's consumption of meat is cultural. In the West, one will eat a cow but not a dog. In the East, one will eat a dog but not a cow. Because I knew I could never eat my beagle, I decided to stop eating meat until I could figure out exactly why I was eating it. Suddenly with limited dietary options, I found myself trying vegetarian recipes that introduced me to dishes and flavors that were dependent simply on the freshness of the ingredients I used and the seasonings I added. In quick succession, I began buying organic produce at my local supermarket, then discovered Cherry Valley Organics, a local CSA based in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. Within a year, having direct access to a farm and farmer gave me more resolute confidence in my diet and well being.
Cherry Valley Organics makes me feel like family. Located in Washington County south of Pittsburgh, the farm is only a short drive from my home. Approximately 40 acres total, but with less than 10 acres in production, the property has five paid staff members and caters to the customer not the farmer. Unlike more traditional CSAs, Cherry Valley lets subscribers order from a menu rather than just receive an unpredictable amount of produce every week. Such a business model is much better suited to the home kitchen in terms of selection, flexibility, less waste, lower overall cost, etc. Similarly, because I agreed to be the drop-off point for my local area, three or four large white coolers appear on my front porch every week--sometimes late at night, sometimes early in the morning. When people walk up the street to share in the spring harvests, I see neighbors I might not have seen since the previous fall. Because of Cherry Valley, I feel more connected to my community.
Cherry Valley actively limits its customer base to keep the operation manageable. As a result, the produce is of the highest quality. According to owners Jodi and Evan Verbanic, their current target is 150 subscribers, although that is often "a moving target, depending on demand from other (wholesale) accounts" they service. Past seasons have ranged from approximately 75 subscribers to over 300 subscribers but "more subscribers are not necessarily better," says Evan. "The tenure of subscribers ranges widely," depending on circumstance, yet core subscribers are typically with CVO for five or more years. Cherry Valley loyalty is regularly rewarded by a Customer Appreciation Day when city and suburban types like me trek into the fields and feel the dirt between our toes. In this way, farmer and consumer all take pride and share in the investment we've made together.
Unlike most CSAs, Cherry Valley is certified organic. Produce costs a little more than grocery store offerings, but as a result, I am less likely to waste food and have become a more active eater. The federal organic standard provides a scientifically sound and level playing field for a family-run farm to compete in a market saturated with meaningless terms such as "sustainable" and "local." The farm's third-party certifier (PA Certified Organic) provides a measurable standard of performance, similar to automotive inspection/emissions testing. Now, regardless of what is on my fork, I know where it came from and why I am eating it. This confidence extends beyond the kitchen. CVO offers an expanded product list that includes potted plants, cut flower bouquets, edible flowers, dried flower arrangements, herbal bath & body products, herbal teas, and herbal vinegars. By giving and using Cherry Valley gifts year round, I support my local CSA beyond its April to November growing season, and my family and friends have become more supportive of the dietary and healthy choices I have made.
Not every person or household is prepared for the commitment of a CSA subscription, however. Shopping at a local farmer's market provides enough satisfaction and sense of community for most people dedicated to providing their families with locally-grown, healthy summer vegetables. However, if someone is looking for a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship to family-owned farms, Local Harvest provides considerable resources about seasonal agricultural production, pricing, distribution, and CSA farming throughout the country. Even a little information about grocery stores and restaurants goes a long way when one is looking for peace of mind about food and nutrition, but belonging to a CSA makes me feel like a more responsible citizen and healthier person.
Long Beach Downtown Farmer's Market by Kaite Hillenbrand
One of my absolute favorite places to frequent is the Long Beach Downtown Farmer's Market, a great place to people-watch, get a little sun and air, and be literally surrounded by great food, crafts, and musicians. When I lived in Long Beach, I had the luxury of being a student, then a teacher, which meant that I was often free to go to the market, which comes to town on Fridays. If you're not free on Fridays, though, I have it on good authority that this experience is worth playing hooky from work. (And, since I don't live in Long Beach any more, I'd like to thank my friends Kim and Jim for taking the wonderful pictures accompanying this article.)
On Friday mornings, after a week of school, I'd sleep in, then slip on overalls, put my hair in pigtails, grab my sweetie, my friends, my girls, or a mixture of those folks, and I'd head over to the Farmers Market. Lunch was first. I could never decide on one meal, which meant I usually ended up buying lunch from a few booths and taking home whatever I couldn't finish. I'd start with Nolin Roasted Corn. If you've never had corn on a stick, you need to try it. You can get your run-of-the-mill butter, salt, and pepper as toppings (or any number of sprinkle-able toppings, like cayenne and garlic salt), but I'd like to recommend a flavor combo I didn't know about until this booth recommended it. They'll roll an ear of fire-roasted corn-on-the-cob in a little mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, and then squeeze lime over the whole thing. I won't lie. I'm salivating just thinking about it. I might have to go out and buy some corn and try it in my oven. What's more, I usually didn't even finish my entire ear, because the best was still coming and I didn't want to fill up.
The main course was always a tough call, and usually depended on the whims of my taste buds. Occasionally, I'd try out the tamales or Greek food. Usually, though, I set the locally made hummus, tzatziki, olives, and pita chips aside to take home, and headed to QT's Smokehouse BBQ or Grill Masters' rotisserie chicken. Excuse me while I find a tissue to wipe the drool from my mouth.
Grill Masters has the most wonderful rotisserie chicken I have ever tasted. They offer several packages, including a whole or half chicken, sides, and drinks. The potato salad is out of this world, creamy and flavorful with big chunks of soft-but-still-firm potato—none of that grainy-textured stuff you get at the store sometimes. The roasted potatoes cook underneath the chicken, so they get the benefit of the chicken's drippings. But whatever else you try, try the chicken. Grill Masters roasts a rotating wall of chicken at once, so the drippings from each row of chickens bastes the rows underneath, creating a crispy, snappy skin that, if you have the willpower, you will fight yourself to keep from eating all at once. Now, I'm not one of those people who likes chicken skin no matter what. If it's at all flabby-feeling, I'm repulsed. At Grill Masters, though, every centimeter of skin is perfectly crisped. I would tear it into pieces and eat one piece with each bite, and very generously leave half of it for my sweetie when he was with me (and he, of course, would do the same. It's a relationship built on trust.) The chicken inside this skin tastes like what I realized chicken is supposed to taste like: it's fresh, moist, tender, and infused with herbs, which each chicken is stuffed full of. I never knew I liked rosemary so much. I called it "rosemary chicken" and was impressed at the way each chicken there was veritably stuffed full of herbs. Grill Masters does not skimp, and they have the recipe right.
For a while, it was a no-brainer: I'd eat Grill Masters chicken every Friday. But it wasn't that easy forever, because a new booth showed up one week, and the smell of its barbeque called me from a block away. Remember the old Looney Tunes cartoons where characters actually lifted off the ground and rode a cloud of delicious food-smell on their noses? That was me with QT's Smokehouse BBQ. When I say BBQ, I don't mean meat stewed in barbeque sauce. I mean a slew of meats—beef brisket, pork ribs, chicken, links, and pulled pork—prepared for hours in a BBQ smoker. My favorite there was the link sandwich. Don't try to order this too early in the day, though, because these guys are purists, and they will not sell you food before it's reached its peak. The pulled pork must reach that moist, tender, fall-apart point. The links, a good inch-and-a-half or two inches in diameter, have to be soft and nearly bursting through their crisp skins before they'll be inserted inside a soft bun and slathered with barbeque sauce. The links are just a bit spicy and a bit sweet, and they're mixed with an earthy, woody barbeque sauce. Add the pressure of the hot, moist meat inside the crisp link skin, and flavor will literally explode inside your mouth with every bite.The Long Beach Downtown Farmer's Market doesn't have a dining area, so it's up to you to find a seat. The streets are lined with options, including benches, planters, and wooden crates graciously supplied by kind produce venders. Sometimes I'd situate myself near one of the many live, local musicians, in the sun or in the shade, and people-watch. Sometimes I just settled on an empty curb with my lunch and fresh-squeezed juice, sold out of coolers, in surprising, healthy combinations like pomegranate-apple-cherry (my favorite!) and pomegranate-orange.
When my fingers were greasy and my tummy was full, I'd peruse the dried fruits and nuts, the crafts (some of which are painted to order in front of you), clothes, hats, tsatskes—and the bakery, whose goodies I was always able to find room for...if not then, later.
And I would finally turn to the rainbow of fresh produce. Walls of crisp, sweet, locally-grown apples; seas of pre-measured pints of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Amber, gold, and nearly black jars of honey. I always sought out the juiciest, most flavorful organic cantaloupes and honeydews, and I rooted through the stacks and stacks of carrots, lettuces, onions, potatoes, radishes, tomatoes, and more types of citrus than a West Virginia girl could imagine—including the basketball-sized pomelo, which I just had to ask about. The vendors are all friendly and know so much about their own produce that talking to them is like taking an agriculture class. Many of them are the farmers themselves. They're all happy to pick out their best fruits for you, once you tell them exactly when you want to eat it. Today? Take this tender melon. Next week? Take this apple with the little dent and keep it in the refrigerator. The dent will help it sweeten fast, but it won't last months like the pristine ones.
And for those of you thinking Long Beach just means Snoop Dogg and LA, remember, it's surprisingly close to some of the best agricultural land in the country. That fresh produce you see was picked and grown just hours from its booth across the street from Q T's Smokehouse BBQ and Grill Masters. It is some of the best and freshest in the world, and it provided me with a week's worth of great food until Friday came around again, and I returned for more curbside corn, chicken, and barbeque.
For some reason, the website makes the Long Beach Downtown Farmer’s Market hard to find. So, for those of you trying to find it on Google Maps, try “5th and Walmart.” On Mapquest, try “The Promenade N” (the 300 or 400 block will do). It starts at the Walmart on 5th St. between Long Beach Blvd and Pine Ave. It’s worth finding. Get your parking stub from either of the two parking buildings validated, and you can park free for two hours.
Photographs by JCL Images
Andrea Iglar is a freelance writer, editor and musician based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She regularly writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and likes to read the newspaper’s food section every Thursday. She enjoys growing herbs and cooking meals based on what she finds at the local farmer’s market. She thinks 24-hour restaurants should offer their nighttime customers the same quality of food as their daytime patrons and does not appreciate being served “nite soup.”
Original Farmer's Night Market in South Fayette, Pennsylvania by Andrea Iglar
I went to opening day of my local farmer’s market with visions of plump tomatoes, big heads of cauliflower and crisp green beans, taken home and stewed with a can of chickpeas and spices for my first one-pot veggie medley of the season.
When I arrived at the pavilion housing the Original Farmers Night Market in South Fayette, Pennsylvania, about 15 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, I noticed the dozen or so vendors didn’t have much fresh produce. I suddenly realized May 7 was too early for harvest.
The first ingredients for my meal came from the friendly staff of The SpringHouse, a 35-year family business comprised of a 420-acre farm, bakery, creamery and eatery located in the community of Eighty-Four in Washington County.
Katrina Wilk was helping run the market booth, part of her job that also includes milking cows, baking breads and driving the tractor during the farm’s autumn pumpkin festival. She kindly pointed me toward a bin holding ice and various sizes of pasteurized, hormone-free milk.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” she said. “It was in the cow this morning.”
I surmised the milk would be thick and fresh, and my hunch was confirmed by a passerby who took it upon himself to say it would be the best milk I’d ever taste.
I chose a $1.50 half-pint of chocolate milk—made with whole milk, Katrina said, noting, “We don’t skimp.” White milk options included 2% and skim.
My eye was tempted by several bread loaves and a sheet of Ho-Ho cake (ho-homemade, no less) but settled upon a $2 round of twelve Italian dinner rolls. They came with a tip for the best way to heat them: Leave them in their brown paper bag and place them in a 350-degree oven for five minutes.
Next to the breads sat a half-dozen giant bowls of prepared cold salads. After a free taste, I opted for a $4.50 pint of cauliflower and broccoli salad with a light, sweet dressing. Katrina said they had purchased these vegetables, but in the summer they would bring their homegrown corn, tomatoes and broccoli to market.
Next, a sweet smell drew me to Keener’s Just Nuts, where Jeffrey Keener offered me a sample of his glazed pecans and almonds. “Like my mom says, ‘We’re not crazy. We’re just nuts.’ ”
Filling in for his mother Lynn, Jeffrey was roasting the nuts on site, using a German-made contraption that’s backordered for six months. I asked what’s in the glaze. He said it was cinnamon, vanilla and sugar. Cost was $3 per five-ounce package, or two for $5. I preferred the pecans, which Jeffrey handed to me in a cute, triangular package printed to resemble a red and white bandanna.
You may call me nuts for it, but I considered the pecans my dessert and passed over several other bakery tables selling cookies, cake, fudge and Eastern European fruit tarts. (I tried the latter last summer and plan to be a return customer.) I also skipped a couple booths of flowers and herbs, but made a mental note of the healthy-looking, two-dollar basil, sage, parsley and rosemary plants in case an unexpected frost were to wipe out my early-planted herb garden.
At last, I discovered a table selling some fresh veggies. Two women from Volker’s Farm, in the Monongahela River valley, were selling tomatoes and cucumbers—both technically fruits—grown in a friend’s hothouse. (The farm had lost two greenhouses over the winter, when heavy snow caused the roofs to collapse.)
“Burpa cucumber,” one woman said, pointing to a foot-long, aromatic, heavily ribbed specimen.
“Burpa? With a ‘p’?” I asked.
Yes, she said, but not to worry: “You can’t taste them all night.”
For $1.50 and the promise of another dinner ingredient, I took it, along with five medium stem tomatoes for $3.75.
Having spent $17.75 of my $20 budget, and noticing the 80-degree temperature was showing no sign of cooling as 7 p.m. approached, I took leave and headed home, feeling relieved I wouldn’t have to slave over a hot pot of veggies after all.
As I drove, I plotted the cleverest possible way to use my farmer’s market finds. Dinner-for-two would be on the table in no time.
Tomato and cucumber sandwiches, sprinkled with salt and pepper, on hot dinner rolls; cold broccoli and cauliflower salad; chocolate milk; glazed pecans for dessert.
- Slice the tomato and cucumber. I cut the cucumber vertically to make broad rectangles rather than medallions. (Leftovers got tossed into a salad the next day.)
- Warm the dinner rolls by leaving them in their brown paper bag and placing them in a 350-degree oven for five minutes. (The bag survived with only slight singes.)
- Place the tomato and cucumber slices on warm rolls, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (Easy!)
- Spoon prepared salad onto plates. (Easier!)
- Pour chocolate milk into glasses. (Easiest!)
- Munch on glazed pecans for dessert.
Brian Schlatter is a sixth generation agriculturalist who resides in Paulding County, Ohio on his family’s farm where he is the one responsible for the cheese portion of their diversified livestock operation. This year will start their third season of making cheese on the farm. One of Brian’s early essays “Yes, you can farm” was published in the Innovative Farmers of Ohio organization’s newsletter back when Brian was in high school. The essay originated from a speech that he used during his public speaking competition through the Future Farmers of America organization. The cheese that Brian makes for Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese can be found at locally owned grocery stores and the Perrysburg and Toledo Farmers Markets. Find out more about Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese . Enjoy the blog while you are there.
Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese by Brian Schlatter
Farmers market season is upon us for another year. What a wonderful time to experience summer through all the wonderful fresh foods that can be acquired at your local market. In today’s economic times it makes more sense to support your local growers, even if you can find that same item cheaper in a big box store. Because when you spend locally with a locally owned company, that does not have a corporate office somewhere else, your money gets recycled in the community in which you live. This in part helps to encourage local economic growth.
Sure everyone talks about a global economy but where has that gotten us thus far? This great country was founded upon small family farms that sold to locals who then took that money to support other local business who then purchased their food from the local farmer, thus creating a web of life. Ironically this country is seeing a resurgence in supporting local economies again. Seeing that the only way to really be “sustainable” is to have all that you need made and produced in your home area because one cannot depend upon their sustaining nourishment to come from a country across the world, where it must be shipped to them. There is too much that can get in the way from that field to your plate.
Which brings up on interesting topic, the farmers planning for the markets. You, the consumer, enjoy going to the market, browsing the stalls, getting to know the vendors, and enjoying what they have to offer. You plan somewhat of a menu for the week and pick up what you need. The producer, on the other hand, has been planning for that market months ago, if not a year or more ago, depending upon what they produce.
For me as, a cheese producer, my planning for that market starts a year in advance. See, I make aged cheeses that take anywhere from 6 months to 18 months before they are ready to be consumed. That means the cheeses that I am producing today are going to be available late this fall, which means that I have to make sure that I produce enough cheese not only to meet last year’s total amount but also for the growth in sales projected this year. To you it may seem like an easy thing when you approach the stand to purchase the final product but to the producer whom you are supporting that is the accumulation of months and months of planning, caring for the product, packing it for you to purchase for your enjoyment.
Not only am I planning a year in advance for what kind of cheese and how much of that cheese I need, during the aging of the cheese, I am working the cheese every other day and sampling the cheese. This sampling lets me to know what is happening in that cheese. Is it aging too fast or too slow, what does the body look like, will it hold up to become an aged cheese or does it need to be sold earlier? With all this information on hand it is then time to pull the cheese from the aging room, cut it into retail size pieces, package it, pack the cooler for the market and head to the market to sell the cheese.
For us here at Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese getting ready for the market begins at the beginning of the week with packaging the cheese. Taking remaining inventory from last week to see how many of each cheese is needed and determine what kind will be sampled out. Then we pull the needed cheeses, cut and pack them, label them and put them in the cooler for market. Once market day has arrived we get everything ready to go and leave 1 ½ hours before market set-up time begins. It may seem like a lot of work and it is, but seeing returning customers each week and new ones makes it all worth it.
What would the world be without independent artisan cheese makers?
asparagus Clean fresh asparagus from your favorite patch and fry in butter until tender. Set aside, keep warm.
2 TBSP Flour
2 TBSP Butter
1 Cup Milk
3/4 Cup Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese or your choice
Blend flour, butter and milk. Put into pan over medium heat. Add cheese and cook until all the cheese is melted. If to thick add more flour or allow to cook longer. Stir to keep from burning.
Take asparagus and cover with white sauce, enjoy. Add a little kick with some pepper.
Photographs by Canal Junction Farmstead
Gary and Rebecca Luginbill own and operate Luginbill Family Farm in rural Pandora, Ohio with their sons Ethan and Jacob. Check their website or stop by and meet them at the Perrysburg Farmer's Market in downtown Perrysburg, Ohio, Bluffton's Farmer's Market in downtown Bluffton, Ohio or at their farm by appointment.
Luginbill Family Farms by Gary and Rebecca Luginbill
It's spring and this time many Farmer's Markets start up for another season. The Farmer's Market is a wonderful recreation of how the farmers used to sell their fresh produce, meat and dairy products before big business took over. The Farmer's Market is a win-win situation for consumer and the small farmer.
For the consumer it offers them a place to buy fresh vegetables, meats and baked goods. The consumer can actually talk to the farmer and ask how their products were raised, cared for, when they were harvested and know that they were produced locally. Try getting that information on any product in the grocery store and you will get all kinds of beat-around-the-bush answers that give you no information and leave you frustrated and unsure of the value and quality of products.
For the small farmer, the Farmer's Market offers them a chance to provide a modest living for their family while doing something they enjoy and have a passion for. Most farmers participating in Farmer’s Markets are concerned about the environment and raising and producing products that contribute to the health of those consuming their products. The farmer can also charge a price that is a fair wage for his time and skills used in producing a product that is far superior to any found in the grocery store. In the grocery store industry, farmers’ products, such as meat, milk and eggs, are many times sold at low prices actually for a loss to draw customers, who then purchase those products but also end up buying other high margin items. This practice is actually unfair to the farmer because the consumer has no idea what the true values of the products are that the farmer produces.
The Farmer's Market has helped me to build a business that my wife and I are passionate about as well as proud of. When I graduated from college my two brothers and I entered into a livestock confinement operation. We were limited by our small acreage and chose to raise hogs in confinement. Confinement raising of any animal whether it be chickens, hogs, layers, or dairy allows you to produce thousands of units broilers, hogs, eggs or milk in a small area. Thus we were able to provide a living for three families. However, the longer we did confinement production the more we realized that the confinement system compromises the health of the animal and the quality of the final product. In the confinement system the health of the animal is challenged by limited space and not having access to pastures and soil for proper nutrition. Feed rations are formulated with least-cost formulas, which often use by-products containing waste and toxins. These practices lead to unhealthy animals that are heavily medicated in order to try to maintain the animals’ health. Who wants to eat meat or eggs or drink milk from animals raised in these conditions? I sure had a hard time being proud of my final product.
Being a Christian, I consider it God's grace that I was given a chance to transition out of the confinement system into a pasture based system, where animals are allowed to eat the foods they were designed to eat and maintain excellent health and growth. The meats and eggs have higher nutrition, proper omega 3 and 6 balances, and are high in CLA and trace elements.
Luginbill Family Farm specializes in total pasture raised and finished beef and lamb, pasture raised pork, broilers and turkeys and free range eggs. We offer these at several Farmer's Markets along with various baked goods, cookies, pies, granola cereals, and other tasty treats baked by my wife using high quality ingredients.
We enjoy the people we meet and new friends made through repeat sales. We are impressed with the knowledge of the market customers who know the nutritional advantages of pasture raised meats and eggs and organic produce. We enjoy being part of the markets and the community it creates, for the customers not only support the farmers and vendors but also the local merchants when they come to town. Where else can you look a producer in the eye and ask them about their productions practices and make a purchase that is good for you, the farmer and the environment? The Farmers's Market is definitely good for all.