I could not resist taking my camera again yesterday to our local farmer’s market.
The following views are even more representative of the entrepreneurial spirit that lives at farmer’s markets! Why would we shop any where else???
Copyright © 2012 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
Buy Fresh Buy Local® ~ Support local businesses.
Have you visited your local farmer’s market recently?
Things are happening there!
You know the drill…glide your mouse over images for further information. 😉
Don’t wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul. ~ Mario Quintana
Copyright © 2012 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
This title may shock you. How difficult could it be to navigate a farmer’s market, you may ask.
For the next few minutes, please allow me to give you a behind-the-scenes farmer’s market perspective and tips for becoming a well-informed farmer’s market customer.
A little history: 2017 marks my seventeenth year as a vendor at my local farmer’s market. During that time vendor participation has grown from forty to over one-hundred. This explosion has created a carnivalesque atmosphere (sans live animals and trick ponies) by 9:30 AM. Saturday market reputes to attract thousands shoppers every week from April-December and is currently the largest farmer’s market in central Virginia.
The former slogan of this decades-old market was, home-baked, home-made, home-grown. In recent years, this motto has vanished from the marketing campaign (driven by city government who oversees the market), thus inviting confusion among new customers. In the past few years, the city is allowing retail storefronts and franchises into the market. This trend began three years ago and dramatically reduced the sales of tenured vendors who comply with the original slogan.
During a recent conversation with the Director, he stated that “the farmer’s market is like a car dealership—the more competition the better.” Shocked by this mechanical mentality, I scribe this post. Buyers beware.
Know the source of your food and vote with your dollars, please.
Efforts are being made in 2017 to inspect the farms of purveyors to better insure the compliance with current market standards.
Seasoned patrons of the market know who the tenured clean (sustainable) farmers are, which vendor bakes from scratch from their home inspected kitchens using whole ingredients, and those who clearly design/fabricate their crafts from molten metals or carded local wool.
Based on repeated customer comments, I deduce that new attendees presume that all the produce, baked goods, and crafts are indeed grown/baked/made by the vendors and their employees who meet a certain criteria. Ahem. Are you ready for a reality check?
This particular farmer’s market is in the heart of an affluent, well-educated, college town of nearly one-hundred-fifty thousand. Whether you live in a small town OR a large urban center, this blog post strives to educate those who rise early on market day seeking fresh, healthy, local foods and support their local economy. Kudos!
Reality: Just yesterday, a new customer approached my booth and asked, did you make this?
Actually, this is the right question. Such an inquiry opens dialogue and an opportunity for customer education.
So, are you ready to be a Rock Star farmer’s market shopper? Check list follows:
- If you are looking for produce, ASK the farmer HOW, WHEN, WHERE, and BY WHOM it was grown. This is your only guarantee that you are purchasing the food of your choice and are supporting a local farmer.
- Does the farmer use organic methods? With the high cost of being “certified organic” many farmers utilize organic/clean methods, yet cannot legally post organic signage. Look for “Organic Methods” produce or ASK the farmer.
- IF the produce was sprayed (leafy greens, strawberries, stone fruit, apples), when was the last application?
- When shopping for baked goods or prepared food, ASK the baker/cook about the ingredients. FYI: Last year I asked one food vendor if the chicken in her skewers was locally grown, and she answered “yes” and when I pressed, she followed that response by confessing the chicken was from a local big box store! See what I mean folks???
- ASK and YE SHALL KNOW…
- When is comes to crafts/artisans, make sure to support the vendors who truly craft their wares. Many bead-stringers appear in this kind of venue, and often do not reflect the time-honored craft of glass blowing or metal-smithing. Once again, ASK the origin of materials. Then decide if you want to support that crafter.
- If you tend to eat your way through a farmer’s market, once again, ASK about food origin. Not all food is sourced equally OR sustainably…
- Is the flour unbleached or bleached (bleached flour is often bromated, a type of carcinogen)
- Is the meat locally sourced and raised/pastured/butchered humanely?
- What about those prepared foods? Where are they from?
- Market vendors may appear to chat endlessly, yet customers must remember that all market vendors rise long before dawn to arrive at market, set up their booths, and brace for five hours of intense selling. After all, these venues are businesses and customers must remember to limit their visits to brief questions and purchases.
- Bring your own shopping bags and small dollar bills. Vendors arrive with a finite amount of change, so ask your bank for SMALL bills, not $20’s, when gearing up for a farmer’s market. Small purchases made with large bills will swiftly wipe out a vendor’s till. Pocket change is good too, to cover any sales tax. Keep coins in circulation, and reduce the need to mine more metals.
- And finally, please do not ask for discounts or samples. Vendors will offer discounts or specials with signage and will present obvious samples—it is their prerogative to do so. Don’t embarrass yourself and downgrade the arduous efforts of vendors by attempting to bargain hunt. Prices may appear higher than a chain store, yet when last did you grow the perfect heirloom tomato—by the bushel?
By now you get my points regarding the importance of supporting clean, sustainable, independent farmers, growers, and bakers who honor their trade and deliver healthy products to farmer’s markets.
If not convinced, kindly check out my other blog post regarding food and other topics at https://dianelasauce.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/the-thing-about-documentaries/
I welcome comments and questions. Bon Appetit!
Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
Spring in central Virginia continues, despite the human condition. Mother Nature always wins. She has run wild since late March delivering freezing 29F temperatures one night then 80F the next week. Wow! My poor peony crop has never seen such dramatic swings. Yet, for the past two weeks, I managed to harvest enough flowers for bouquets to sell at market. Happy customers are unaware of my road of angst traveled to get there.
The O’Neal blueberries are another story. The bumblebees did a splendid job of pollinating the flowers early on. Fruit swelled on the stems, yet they too experienced the dramatic temperature swings. My three shrubs are now ten years old. How time flies. Over the years, I experimented in numerous ways on how to deter birds and one nocturnal four-legger from my cash crop.
What do you think of my recent solution?
Gardening is all about evolution.
And patience, and resilience.
Only the cleverest catbird or cardinal will find their way under the tulle to the berries. I don’t mind sharing a few, but since I harvested thirty pounds of berries from these three shrubs in 2019, I will not share many with wildlife.
Regular market customers are already lined up for their share of this blue superfood come June.
Now back to the peony harvest. Overcast skies this week threaten rain on partially opened buds, not quite ready for harvest. Peonies and rain are not the ideal combination for floral bouquets. A giant circus tent would be ideal for protection, but alas that will not happen. And so it goes…
I hope you and yours are well and safe. I enjoy hearing from you, so please take a moment to drop a comment.
Copyright © 2020 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
Peony season ended yesterday with the last stems going home with market shoppers. Over 700 stems were harvested this year, despite crazy spring temperature swings.
I thought every blueberry flower was frozen during a late March freeze and I fully expected a ruined harvest. Behold, a few weeks ago fruit formed and swelled although I rarely saw a pollinator.
So begins another harvest challenge..wild birds appear to be especially hungry this spring and despite my efforts to foil winged and four-footed marauders, I regularly notice clever catbirds, robins, and one blasted squirrel climbing under the tulle, metallic ribbon, and whirligigs. “Ha!”they say. “On berries we will gorge!”
Now I will share images of what’s blooming here at Swallowtail Cottage this month.
Here at Swallowtail Cottage, in zone 7a, the first nesting season is now complete for the Carolina chickadees, Eastern bluebirds, and Northern cardinals. The three-week old cardinal chicks have found my feeders and entertain me with their antics. Sadly, one cardinal chick appears to have wing issues end I think it cannot fly. I shall monitor the situation as it visits the feeders and will contact the Wildlife Sanctuary for advice.
I regularly chase off the Brewer’s Blackbirds, cowbirds, and jays who invade my feeders and terrorize the new resident chicks. Tufted titmice continue their quiet routines, one Ruby-throated hummer visits the feeder frequently, House and Goldfinches continue to annoy me, Carolina Wrens are scarce, Brown Thrashers are beautiful and elegant, the occasional Chipping Sparrow makes an appearance, and my beloved Red bellied woodpeckers astound and delight. I envy their ability to fly, yet rejoice in the fact that I have arms, hands and fingers…
Happy and bountiful spring to your, my followers. I always enjoy hearing from you.
PS. WordPress just informed me that this is my 200th post. Shall I continue or retire?
Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
Saturday’s market began as a quiet, misty morning. Following many days of rain, the variation was agreeable. Being Mother’s Day weekend, I took many pies and buckets of fragrant peonies, conditioned all week-long for prime time.
Early sales were unremarkable and I was beginning to fret. Then a high school friend of my older sister and trusted real estate broker in this area arrived to collect the KLpie and peonies I reserved for her as a gift. After battling breast cancer, endless chemo, and reconstruction in the past three years, her cancer had returned with a vengeance and she told me during a phone conversation that she is terminal. This morning her walk was strong, her eyes bright, and she greeted me with a warm hug and a joke about the side effects of medical marijuana. That was an emotional visit. She is the mainstay of her large family and will be greatly missed by family and young grandchildren who will never know her sense of humor. I will never understand why bad things happen to good people. Never.
Later that morning, I noticed a couple who I recognized from television. I had never seen them at market before. They were the parents of a Virginia Tech student who was brutally murdered after a UVA concert in 2009. When the remains were finally discovered in a field south of town the family had closure, yet the mother has never stopped petitioning for her foundation Save the Next Girl.
This morning, the mother was dressed head to toe in black and looked so profoundly sad. When they passed me for the second time, I reached for my clippers and trimmed a few of my prettiest peonies and caught up to her. Not knowing what I would say, all that came out was, “we have never met…” and I choked up, gave her a hug and walked away, but not before she said, “God bless you.”
Returning to my booth with tears in my eyes, I quickly spotted the owner of the restaurant where I sell my KLpies. He was with his new wife and their one month old daughter, who slept snugly at her breast. He is a big fan of my pimento cheese and came for another tub. Why he did not spring for a sleeve of my beautiful peonies, I do not know. After they walked off, I grabbed another bunch of my peonies and caught up with them. She was delighted and he seemed touched too. Some men can be so —.
Back at my booth again, a three-generation family arrived asking details about my Key Lime pie. Following my spiel and their purchase, I noticed the rather frail elder in the group was clearly disengaged. I pulled out a pretty single flower and walked to her and said, “Happy Mother’s Day!” Her face lit up, she nearly blushed, and the entire family grinned from ear to ear. Flowers are amazing mood boosters!
I ended this day of intense pie and peony sales at noon. In fact, when I later counted my till, this was the largest grossing day in my entire seventeen years at City Market! Furthermore, I cannot remember a more emotional one.
Simple gestures reap great rewards and today I was reminded of this rule. I recuperate with a warm heart and hope that both my gardening and kitchen efforts made a small difference in the lives of those who I encountered.
I am blessed to know health, the simplicity of routine choices, and delight in greeting the wild birds who have sanctuary in my gardens.
Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
My central Virginia gardens endured one of the hottest, driest summers in recent history.
Since most of the fifteen-year-old landscape is well established, only the few new installations required weekly monitoring. The basement dehumidifier supplied a consistent 2-gallon supply of free water daily, greatly reducing the labor intensive task of hose dragging.
I gave up raising home vegetables in 2014. Too many persistent insects prayed on tender leaves, leaving undesirable remnants. I fully support organic growing methods, yet for the effort involved, I would rather spend my time tending the heirloom daffodils, peonies, and lilies that reside here. These spring beauties bring endless joy to me and my market customers come April/May, and by the time June heat and humidity build, I am spending only minimal time outdoors.
Gardening during cool temps from November-March soothes my soul. The tempo is slow. The air is crisp and clean. I add to my perennial collections, as fall is planting season. And above all, the dastardly biting insects are absent and I once again enjoy the outdoors.
This month the arborist arrives with his bucket truck and helper. He annually sheers the 135 Leyland Cypress that border my property. This year I am tasking him with drastically reducing the elevation of the rows…tough love. Over the years, they slowly crept up to twenty feet, a height I no longer desire. Soon entire row at the back will be totally eliminated by the power company, as maintaining it is now unsustainable and my splendid privacy fence doing a fine job.
As of today the house and shed are washed/painted/caulked where needed. The roof chimney and vents are caulked and painted. The patio furniture has a fresh coat of paint (yes that DTM paint project two years ago was a miserable failure.) The windows are washed inside and out. 23′ of deer fencing is installed in the lower corner of the garden to close a gap. Three arborvitae and a Kousa dogwood will replace an ancient dogwood (Cornus florida) and an unimpressive japanese maple. Eventually this new installation will screen the deer wire.
THEN, on the fifteenth of November, I shall have knee surgery…just a repair for a torn meniscus.
Yes, gardening does take a toll. Perhaps last November’s foundation planting did in my knee. That two tons of river rock did not seem that difficult, yet perhaps it was the eleven hours it took to prep/plant the seventeen shrubs. Ahh, November.
A time to complete chores, reflect, relax, and bask in the glow of a dreamy winter ahead.
Copyright ©2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
The month of August is bittersweet.
This year summer evolves especially fast. Spring was long and cool, delaying daffodil bloom long enough to sell cut stems at the April farmers market.
By mid-May temperatures were in the 90’s, heavy rains fell, then the high humidity set in. Despite this challenging conditions, the peony harvest was especially abundant in May; over 600 stems were sold at market, necessitating the purchase of an additional refrigerator for the basement.
I did enjoy four days of respite at P Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm outside Little Rock, Arkansas. During the growing season, I tiptoe out of my gardens to catch a flight to this gardener’s dream land as a guest, only to return a few days later to a needy garden…”weed me, harvest me, plant me, mow me, feed me, dig me…”
And now it is August. Both heirloom tiger lilies and Davidii phlox bloom cycles are finished and spent stems are removed. The lush Oakleaf hydrangea bloom is merely a memory. Why? It seems, we gardeners wait with such anticipation for bloom time, only to have it pass seemingly overnight…every season.
Generous rains produced stunning, abundant blooms this season on the spiraea, hellebore, and Lemon lilies.
Delayed are the two main 2015 outdoor projects: the oil stain project of the new 90′ privacy fence (both sides) and the necessary reconditioning of the terrace masonry wall.
Are any of you considering home ownership? This post will be a reality check for you. Since buying this place back in 2001, the projects both large and small, inside and out, are endless. Some days/years I think I am making progress, others, I think I am in a rapid backslide…
Wild birds bring much relief and beauty on a daily basis to my gardens. This year I am hosting hummingbirds, and they come in droves for their plain sugar-water fix and enjoy sips from the Crocosmia.
I feed numerous other wild birds here at Swallowtail Cottage, yet the Bluebirds chose not to nest here again this year. They come in to feed, and I hear their song whilst gardening, yet only a pair of black cap chickadees occupied the BB boxes this season while either a titmouse or carolina wren raised young in the wren box.
So begins August here in central Virginia. I expect the arborist later this month for our annual chore of topping/shearing the Leyland cypress hedges; I will be glad to see the bagworms vanish into the chipper.
Queen Ann’s Lace, hyssop, cleome, hostas, and roses continue to color the landscape as summer winds down for another season. Butterflies nectar on the verbena and Joe Pye Weed. Fat cucumbers dangle from the arched cattle panels, while sweet basil, tomatoes, hot peppers, kale and herbs fill the raised beds. Soon I will harvest my first crop of Lilliput melons, as they meander across the lower butterfly garden. 2015 has been an abundant growing season. Full of edibles, friends, happy memories, and hard work.
And soon, yes soon I will breathe a bit easier; I will sleep a wee bit longer as garden/market chores lighten. As biting insects depart, when there is a chill in the crisp air, I will once again enjoy my lower patio and reflect on another year as a homeowner/gardener.
Did you know that we will lose one hour of daylight in August? While I am still the busy bee today, the planet continues its orbit. Our gardens respond, and indeed so do we. Best now to consider the color of this year’s flannel sheets, while continuing to mow, weed those persistent invasives, and get a handle on those unfinished outdoor projects…
If you have a moment, would love to hear from you either by the click of the “like” button or speak in the comments section. Does my blog make a difference? Cheers!
Copyright © 2015 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved