Saturday, October 21, 2006

Diminishing Returns

The mornings grow colder day by day, and the rainy weather and blustery autumnal winds have stripped many trees bare. October –- usually such a cheering month, with sun-struck colors, brisk sunny days, and a steaming cup of spiced cider after a vigorous romp through the leaves –- has shown its melancholy side this year.

Nowhere has this been more apparent than at the farmers' market as the crowds of vendors and customers dwindle. Today only about half a dozen farm stands sprawled out over the square, and a couple of the farmers expressed doubt that they'd be back next week to round out the season.

Still, what they brought to sell was choice:

From the Amish farmers, I bought another big head of broccoli, a large head of red cabbage, a big bunch of my favorite curly kale, and two quarts of good-sized Kennebec potatoes.

The Cheerful Lady had a "sale" to move some of her surplus produce, so I stocked up! Her garlic, usually two heads for $1, had a price of four heads for the same amount, and though I probably have a few dozen bulbs at home already, I bought another dozen. I also bought Austrian fingerling potatoes and sage (not one of my favorite herbs, but during this damp fall it seems particularly bracing and healing).

The Old Apple Man (not to be confused with the Orchardist) had his last apples for sale, so I stopped to talk with him about the merits of some of his less familiar varieties as well as his opinions on the care of his orchard (minimal spraying) and the flavor of homegrown apples. He kindly put together a peck bag of Freedom apples (good for eating as is) and Northern Spy, an old variety I've heard about but never before sampled.

The Gentleman Farmer and his Lady Wife had their usual array of produce, so I indulged myself and bought the last tomatoes of the season, a trio of small eggplants, two more pumpkins, four sweet onions and three red ones, and two small Delicata squash. Since the Gentleman Farmer said they probably wouldn't be back next week, I lingered to talk with them both and to express my appreciation for their work and their produce. He even asked what other vegetables I'd like to see them grow next year –- now that's really working with your local growers!

Only one week left this year of this fine local bounty –- and I'm really going to miss all this good food, fresh from the farm. Sure, I've tucked a lot away (frozen, canned, dried, and as is) from this year's market, and that should carry me well into winter. But I'll also miss the weekly conversations with the farmers, finding out how their work is going and learning something new each week.

One more week. I'll be there. Will you?


At 10/24/2006 1:56 PM, Anonymous Kim U said...

We have three more weeks left on the fall extension of the CSA we belong to and I'm already dreading what happens after that. This was the first year we joined a CSA and I can't say enough about how great it has been -- both the produce and, as you said, the conversation with the farmers.

It's been great reading about your farmer's market experiences, although it does make me a bit jealous. The Nashville farmer's market is just a few blocks away from our house, but it's mostly distributors rather than farmers. Especially disappointing considering the great growing season here in middle TN.

At 10/24/2006 2:28 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Kim, it's great to hear that you've had such a wonderful experience with your CSA this year. I'm not sure we have a CSA here in town, but given the number of local farmers at our market, I'd find it hard to stick with just one farm!

It's too bad that your local market is more distributors than farmers. Can you find out who coordinates the market and ask if they can bring in more local folks next year? I know I need to contact our local market organizer to find out what it would take to support a longer-running market... the farmers are interested!

Anyway, hope you will do well once the season is over... perhaps the local groceries will carry some local foods? Good luck!


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