It may be frigid out, but I braved the cold to get that bacon that I've been craving! The word on the street is most of the pork items sold out in mere hours so I'm quite happy I snapped some up. I saw New Roots Farm had a few remaining pounds of their pastured-raised heritage pork after only one hour of the market being open! The local scene is alive, even in the dead of winter!
So here's what I bought today: bacon from Brookford Farm, honey from White Gate Farm of Epping, coffee (Burundi) from Red Rover Coffee Roasting, a bar of soap from Jenness Farm, and potatoes from Heron Pond Farm.
Also new to my culinary repertoire is haddock and shrimp from Eastman's Fish Market. Now living in New England my entire life one would assume that I love seafood, right? Wrong! I can do shrimp and, uh, fish sticks, but that's it (and supermarket fish sticks aren't even real food)! I do know how important seafood is to one's diet and I'm finally committing to eating more seafood, and hopefully learning to love it! (Thanks Debra for teaching me how to clean my shrimp!)
I also want to re-post "How to Shop Like a Pro at the Holiday Farmers’ Market" written by Sarah Zoe of Seacoast Eat Local. I find it contains very helpful tips for both the beginner and "pro" farmers' market attendee.
- Come with an open mind. I often arrive at a farmers’ market hoping to find a particular ingredient, and when I do, I feel blessed. And, with a terrific list of what will be available on the website, I can strategically plan for some items I don’t want to miss. But sometimes things do sell out. And when that happens, I let serendipity be my guide - what is at the market is more than pleasantly surprising. Amazingly buttery potatoes alongside heirloom varieties of poultry, winter greens, and more.
- Don’t like crowds? Don’t feel like you have to come at 10am! The farmers’ markets are open until 2pm, and after 11:30am or so, you’ll find it easier to park and maneuver around. We’ve moved into much larger spaces this year so we can all have more elbow room, but if you’ve got strollers or just want a more relaxed experience, coming a little later in the day might be a smart choice. While we can’t promise an item or two won’t sell out, our vendors are well prepared for a large number of customers and would love to have your business at whatever time you make it!
- Bring plenty of cash. There is so much good quality delicious food to be had, you might surprise yourself! In addition to food for yourself, you may wish to buy a pie for a neighbor, or a jar of maple syrup or honey as a gift for your kid’s teacher. Some foods naturally add up, like big, delicious turkeys.
- Bring your checkbook. While farmers and food producers usually cannot accept credit or debit cards, almost every one does accept checks. This is not to say the food at the farmers’ market is very expensive, but the credit card back up isn’t there, so give yourself the checkbook as a back up.
- Bring bags. Sturdy bags, and plenty of them. Those very inexpensive woven bags you see everywhere these days are awesome because they have flat bottoms, meaning you can get a lot of stuff in there without it crushing everything else. All the vendors will have plastic shopping bags, but a. it is hard to carry a lot of those and b. less plastic = better. I do a 1, 2 combo and bring a bunch of grocery store plastic bags into which I pile anything loose that needs to be weighed. That way, onto the scale goes my already pre-used plastic bag instead of a new one, and then it can quickly and simply go into my bigger totes.
- Bring a cooler. Or two. There will be an amazing variety of locally caught fish and locally raised meat for sale, which means providing your family with a healthier, more humane product that you can feel safe serving. Since meat is so easy to stock up on (it is all pre-frozen because of the nature of small farms and small processing facilities in New England), I will be making certain I get my share. But there will also be plenty of delicious cheese from Silvery Moon Creamery - cheddar, cheddar curd, maybe some mozzarella, Brie and Camembert, and much more as well as fresh Jersey milk from Brookford Farm. Frozen meat turns into the ice cubes for the milk and cheese, et voila!
- Take trips to the car. The foods of fall can be heavy. Potatoes, onions, and squashes, frozen cuts of meat, jars of honey. You can make as many trips to the car to drop off heavy things as you want.
- Give yourself time to scope everything out. This is a big market! There is a lot to see and a lot to buy. Very special and particularly coveted things you might want to snap up on sight, but allow yourself time to make sure you didn’t miss anything on the first pass.
- Give yourself time to relax. We have live music and a kids table where your youngsters can do a free craft, so grab a hot drink and a snack, and stick around for awhile.
- Give yourself a pat on the back. Yes, -you- know the food at farmers’ markets is more delicious, more flavorful, and much much fresher, so if those are the only reasons you shop at farmers’ markets that’s more than ok. But buying local food is also a political act, an environmental statement, and a social contract - it’s saying that you care about your neighbors, your community, the health of your family and the environment alike. You are doing great things when you shop at farmers’ markets, take credit for it!