With record breaking sales and a bounty of wonderful local produce, it has certainly been an action-packed few weeks at the Market!
As the first few Wednesday Markets get underway, we’re excited to be edging towards peak season. Zucchini and summer squash are here in abundance; new potatoes and lettuce continue to delight; green beans are almost ready and tomatoes are quickly ripening up.
At this stage in the season, we’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who attends, runs, sponsors and supports the Market. It’s a tremendous effort.
Be sure to enjoy the delicious, nutritious food and smoothies from the food booth truck, free for under-18s and just $2 per item for everyone else. And don’t forget to give the smoothie bike a go!
Nothing beats a locally grown
What makes the blueberry so special?
Blueberries are one of the very best fruits for you. They’re stuffed full of fiber and antioxidants (which help reduce effects of ageing). Blueberries are also very versatile — good straight out of the box, frozen, and in jams and pies. Not to mention they’re absolutely delicious! For me, there’s nothing nicer than a blueberry pie, hot out of oven, served with some vanilla ice cream.
How did you come to start growing them?
After my wife suggested it initially, I bought some plants for my garden to try it out and learn more about the different varieties. I also planted some bushes at the County Extension Office as a demonstration. When a larger site became available, with the ideal acidic soil conditions, I decided to take the opportunity to expand.
Was it challenging to get started?
Blueberries definitely require a lot of patience; it can take 5 or 6 years for the bushes to start producing a good crop. We also hit some bad luck initially, with the berries affected by deer, locusts and drought in the first couple of years. Although it took a while for things to get going, these conditions have actually made the plants stronger so they now produce a consistent crop.
What’s your job with the University of Kentucky, and how does it relate to blueberry growing?
My job consists of communicating the knowledge generated by UK’s agricultural research to individual growers. This can help farmers find the most effective types of crops and produce higher yields. For example, I experimented with the different blueberry varieties suggested by UK, tweaking things based on the individual conditions of my site (soil, climate and so on). To learn more about this, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you always been interested in the outdoors?
Yes. As a child, I remember helping my grandfather grow vegetables for the family. I still keep a garden at my house, and grow things like corn, tomatoes and broccoli. I also love hiking, and am working to promote physical activity through the Pine Mountain Trail. Exercise is so important for physical and mental well-being, especially for kids in school. Walking is the perfect form of exercise: it’s accessible, de-stressing, and a great way to get out into the beautiful mountains.
Do you produce anything else?
Yes. We produce maple syrup at the Extension Office. Once the tree sap is extracted from the trees, it’s reduced to a syrup before being jarred. It’s a very precious product and we can only produce a small amount as the ratio of sap to syrup is 40:1! But the end result is delicious, particularly with pancakes. I also keep bees and produce honey.
How do you manage to pick so many blueberries to sell each week?
In peak season, I employ additional people to help me pick. Pickers need to make sure the berries are all blue and fully ripe for the best flavor, though you do get faster with experience.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
Mainly competition from blueberry-loving animals! The nets are essential for keeping out birds, and an electric fence for warding off bears and deer. Picking in the hot sun is another big challenge.
What could be better than a cycling machine? One that produces fresh smoothies, of course! Jump on this bike and, as you get pedalling, the power generated will blend up a delicious and healthy drink right in front of you. Be sure to stop by and try it out this Market.
We caught up with Janet to
What does a normal day at the Market look like for you.
I get to the Market 6.30-7am to help set things up as the farmers arrive. I make sure that the food booth has all the necessary ingredients from the farmers. After that, I help each vendor as required with unloading before the 9am Market opening. I try to ensure all of the vendors (especially the new ones) are in a good position to sell. It’s usually crazy-busy at the start! I deal with price lists, answer questions, and exchange vouchers, EBT and SNAP credit for wooden coins. We run programs for all ages — from newborns right through to seniors — to help everyone access fresh produce. The end of the Market is also action-packed, checking out vendors and redeeming credits, but it’s always an exciting time of the week.
How did you end up at the Market?
I have 35 years of food service experience so have always been interested in related initiatives. As soon as I heard about the exciting development of the Market movement, I was enthusiastic to be part of it. Once I was back home in Whitesburg, I got involved within about 6 months.
What has been your proudest moment at the Market?
Travelling with Valerie to speak about the Market. People around the country are looking at Whitesburg and what’s going on here. The Summer Feeding Program was one of the very first in the nation, for example. Additionally, it’s amazing to see the physical effects of the Market on people’s health week-by- week over the course of the Market season.
What are your thoughts on the first Market week?
The first Saturday Market and Feedtime dinner were both fantastic events, and the response far greater than we had anticipated. It was a very exciting way to start the year.
What is the best thing about the Market?
The social aspect of seeing everyone in person each Saturday morning. The Market community is like an extended family. In the winter, we’re forced to speak on the phone to catch up! Everyone knows that farmers markets are sociable places but the extent of this always surprises me. Senior citizens come and talk to each other, while the Food Booth is also creating more of a social space. We’re also excited about the impact that walking initiatives, such as our partnership with the Tanglewood trail, will have.
How is the Market focusing on children?
We’re running several initiatives for children — from the food booth to Kids’ Day. It’s important that kids know about making healthy and delicious food choices. Going out in the garden and actually growing things is very important. Giving children the choice of free fruit and vegetables on Kids’ Day is also impactful.
How have you seen the Market change?
The Market has definitely grown in terms of vendors, sales, and the diversity of products on offer. We encourage vendors to bring one new product to the Market that no-one else is selling if they can. One vendor did this with brussels sprouts and sold them all, while Dock Frazier has done well with his eggs.
What makes this Farmers Market different from others?
We put a very strong emphasis on local produce, supporting vendors from Letcher and neighbouring counties who will generate and spend money here. The Market also has a really strong local community spirit to it. Rather than competition, there’s a big feeling of respect and cooperation among the vendors.
Favorite fruit or vegetable?
Impossible to pick between fresh peas and greasy beans.
Do you cook?
I love to cook, especially chicken with fresh new potatoes and peas.
Two Boston Terriers: Sophie (5) and Gracie (2).
Do you grow?
Yes! I have a small garden, planted with lettuce, carrots, onions, broccoli, red and white cabbages, squash, zucchini, sugar snap peas, and cherry tomatoes.
Most stressful Market moment?
The nervous period before every Market (especially the first of the year!) hoping that all goes to plan.
Ultimate ambition for the Market?
A permanent structure, with electricity and running water for each stall, and a permanent Summer Feeding Program booth.
On Market Kids' Day, get hands-
A great way to get kids interested in cooking. Super quick (ready in minutes), nourishing and healthy: an ideal start the day. Perfect made with eggs from Frazier Farms, and topped with fresh blueberries from Faith Farms or grilled tomatoes from the Market. Recipe serves two; adjust as necessary.
Ingredients (look out for these at the market!):
2 large eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, 2 slices bread, salt & pepper, olive oil.
(Adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver)
Freshest produce chosen and
“Shakshuka” (Tomato and Egg Stew)
An incredibly healthy and addictive dish from the heart of the Middle East. Tomato and egg-based, it’s an ideal way to use Farmers Market produce. Perfect for any meal from weekend brunch to after-work dinner. Serve hot from the oven (it’s traditionally eaten straight out of the pan) with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the sauce, and a crunchy salad. Recipe serves four; adjust quantities as necessary.
Ingredients (look out for these at the market!):
3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 onion (cut thinly), 1 red pepper (seeded and cut thinly), 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 3 tomatoes (chopped), 800g canned chopped tomatoes, 8 eggs, 50g feta cheese, handful of cilantro leaves (chopped), salt & pepper.
(Adapted from a recipe in Gail's Artisan Bakery Cookbook)
Chris reveals what sparked his
What do you grow for the Farmers Market? How much do you produce?
This year I’m growing cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, melons, watermelons, lettuce and rhubarb. I love growing, and produce as much as I can while also running Whitesburg utilities.
How did you become interested in growing?
I’ve always grown things, ever since helping my father with his vegetable plot as a child. Back then, I used to see it as a chore, but when I left home I realized that I missed growing. I started with peas one summer, and things progressed from there to where I am today.
How do you think the Market has impacted Whitesburg so far?
The Market has helped both to generate community spirit and also to improve food choices and general health. It’s important that everyone — children and adults — know about food and growing, and the Market provides a great means to achieve this.
How have you seen the Market change over the past few years?
The size and diversity of the Market have been the biggest changes. In addition to fruit and vegetables, a much wider range of products is now available, such as art, eggs, and local meats.
What’s this growing season looking like for you? What do you have in store for us?
Things are looking positive, even though all the rain posed a challenge to seedlings early on. Cabbages, peas and broccoli are almost ready. Corn should be at the Market in a few weeks. Watermelons (more than ever this year), melons, and pumpkins will be ready late Fall.
What’s your philosophy on agriculture?
I think that the traditional way of growing produces the best-tasting crop. I grow organically, and focus on maintaining good soil quality using a rototiller and old Ford tractor that I restored.
Do you process any of your crops to add value?
I make sauerkraut (a sour, fermented cabbage) and jellies, and can some foods to preserve them. But I also eat all of my vegetables raw, straight out of the ground, even corn (which is particularly sweet).
[Editor’s note: while conducting this interview, Chris gave me some raw peas and rhubarb to try; both were absolutely delicious.]
What does a normal day look like for you?
In between working on Whitesburg’s utilities, I spend about 2.5 hours tending to my garden on weekdays, and often significantly more on weekends. I like to spend as much time growing as I can.
What do you do with your plot over winter?
Over winter, I get the soil ready for the new year. This is important because I sow seeds straight into ground in the Spring. Winter is also a good chance to experiment with growing different vegetables, including cabbages.
Any tips for someone starting out with growing?
I would advise being careful. Talk to others and take their advice as much as possible. Think carefully about the site where you're growing — could flooding or deer be an issue?
Best thing about growing?
Getting up early and walking round the garden with a cup of coffee, hearing the birdsong.
Favorite thing to cook?
Barbecue, preferably for a large crowd.
Favorite thing about Whitesburg?
The tight-knit community.
Best thing about the Farmers Market?
Meeting interesting people every week.
If you were abandoned on a desert island with three vegetables, which would you choose?
Potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage (to be self-sustaining).
What grows best here?
Cabbages work particularly well.
Soup beans and pork chops.
Beautiful, fresh produce; local, sustainable agriculture; community spirit. It’s good to be back and celebrating the first Farmers Market of 2016.
As you wander around the Market, you’ll be sure to see familiar faces and produce. But you’ll also notice that the market is bigger than ever. As interest in healthy, local food continues to grow, this online version of MARKET MATTERS newsletter will bring you the latest Market news, top tips for shopping and cooking, and behind the scenes photographs and interviews with the producers. We hope it will help enlarge the impact of the Farmers Market even further from Saturday mornings through to 7 days a week.
It may be early in the season, but our growers are already harvesting some fantastic crops. Keep an eye out for: