The Farmer’s Market

           If you have ever dreamed of packing in city life and moving to the country then this book is for you.    Canadian author, Brent Preston turned fantasy into reality in this account of starting an organic vegetable farm and ten years of trial and error and back breaking labor before finally achieving a profitable outcome. 

The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food RevolutionThe New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution by Brent Preston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A must read manual for city dwellers and lovers of the organic food movement about a family who chose to leave the rat race and follow their dream of running a profitable organic vegetable farm. Dust off those fantaseeds and learn the gritty reality of where your food comes from.

           Although he might have started out with a simple plan in mind, by the end of the ten years he had mechanized his operations, hired agricultural co-op students for summer labor, perfected a delivery service and marketing campaign, and ended up specializing in just three crops, one of which was lettuce.   One of the things he did initially was to participate in the local farmer’s market every Saturday morning, but after a few years of this he packed it in.  If you think about it, never a weekend off for you or your kids, up at 4 am to load up the truck and then later in the day unloading the unsold produce.   Plus, while he said while he enjoyed the social aspect with the regular customers and the other vendors, there just wasn’t enough profit in it to continue.   Better to cater to the fancy restaurants who would pay premium for anything fresh and organic.   

           There is no doubt we are what we eat and organic food is in – food in it’s natural state.   Ask a person who has been lucky enough to live to be over ninety and chances are they grew up on a farm.   So farmers markets are booming because organic food is so popular, but are the farmers doing well?  I grew up on a farm, 100 acres, so I know how hard it is to make a living on one and how much work is involved.   We had a dairy farm with Holsteins  when I was a child and my dad had a small herd, three milking machines and a cream contract.   He got up at 4:30 am every day to milk the cows, then he would come in, shave and have breakfast (bacon and eggs and perked coffee), as we were getting up for school, by 7:30 he would have left for his other job, home at 4:30, early supper, then milk the cows again, and he would be in bed by ten or falling asleep while reading the paper.   On the weekends there were all the other chores to do.   Even back then you couldn’t quite make a living on a farm without a second job, and with a growing family, he finally switched to beef cattle instead and cash cropped corn, soybeans and wheat, and while that was a lot of work too, we were finally able to take a family vacation without being tied to the milking schedule.   Now farming is big business, a thousand acres or bust.  There was an article in the local paper recently about the International Plowing Match which listed a combine as worth $500,000, and a tractor with GPS the same.   My dad’s first tractor in 1948 cost $1000 and had a side seat upon which we kids would ride – heaven forbid, no one would let kids do that now.   My elderly grandfather who died in 1951, was against the new-fangled modern machinery, as they had to sell his beloved Clydesdale horses in order to buy it.  HorseThe last tractor my dad bought came equipped with air conditioning and a few years after he died, they had CD players, now they are steering themselves.   While farming may be mostly mechanized now, organic vegetable farming is still labor intensive, especially during the harvest.   It’s not a job many people want to do, and often the farmers must hire seasonal workers from Mexico or Jamaica to help out.

        September is the best time of year to visit a farmer’s market as it is bursting with the last of the summer produce and the early fall harvest.   While the peaches and berries may be almost done, the  plums, pears, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, new potatoes and onions are coming in.   

tomatoes

potatoes

Our local market is open Wednesdays in the summer and Saturdays year round.   Even in the winter, the inside of the old building is full of root vegetables and cheese and butcher shops, but in the nice weather the outside stalls see the most action.    They really need more space, but it’s been in the same place for eighty plus years and you don’t mess with tradition.   Located in an older residential part of town, there is one small parking lot and you have to drive round and round waiting for someone else to leave.  With about 50 spaces for 200 people it’s kind of like musical chairs for grownups.  Luckily, no one lingers long.   While you can get a pour over coffee with freshly roasted beans, there is no cafe to sit in or cooked food available.   We don’t see a lot of homeless people here but one day a woman with her cart piled high with all her worldly possessions asked me for some money, and with my hands full I shook my head no, but then after putting my produce in the car, I went to find her, and gave her ten dollars, which I suspected might go to drugs but who knows?   A friend of mine keeps Tim Horton’s coffee shop gift cards to hand out for this reason, but there is something so very sad about begging in front of a place with so much plenty.     

              Even in the winter I will visit about once a month, because there is still cheese, and apples and oranges to buy, but I’ve often wondered why they open at 6 am.   All the vendors are yawning by noon, or closing up early as they have been up since four loading their trucks.   Wouldn’t 8-2 be more civilized hours?   If they are supplying restaurants do they need to buy that early?    If I don’t get there by 11:30 (or  I’m still playing musical chairs), I may miss my favorite cheese stall or they might be out of Gouda.  

The cheese wars can be fierce.  There are two cheese vendors, right across from each other, and the Battle of The Gouda got so bad last year, they both decided not to post their prices.    They will glare across the aisle if they think you have abandoned camp, but if they have run out, what is the alternative?  My grandmother was Dutch, so I grew up on Gouda, the mild form, not the spicy seeded variety she bought from The European Shop.   

Dutch Inheritance - AMc

Dutch Inheritance

The market cheese is better than at the grocery store and they will give you a sample if you are undecided.   Even if you know you will like it, a sample will often tied you over if you got up early and missed breakfast.    Buying cheese at the market is also much cheaper than in the grocery store so I usually stock up on aged cheddar as well as the Gouda.    The one cheese vendor has recently retired and been bought out by the egg lady beside them, who I don’t think has gotten the hang of the weigh scale yet as she is very generous with her pounds, or kgs.   I don’t buy eggs from her though as I can’t stomach those brown eggs with the bright yellow yolks.   It reminds me of the eggs growing up on the farm, but I know free range chickens are all the rage and I am sure they are full of omega-3’s.    

I like to look at the flowers, the glads are out now, but I seldom buy as I have lots of flowers at home. 

glads

I have my own semi-successful potager, so I don’t feel the need to buy tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuce, but one whiff of the dill brings back memories of my mother canning dill pickles.    You can get a free bunch of dill with every large purchase. 

20180818_114916

dill

The early apples are starting to come in, which will soon mean spies and pies.  I can smell the cinnamon now.

apples

 My favorite time of year is when the summer fruits are available, the strawberries and peaches.   You can get a bushel of overripe fruit for ten dollars and make a whole batch of jam for what you might pay for two jars.    There is a jam vendor also, for when you run out, who also sells homemade fruit pies.  So definitely there is a cost savings, and the food is so much fresher and better tasting, not to mention not loaded with tons of preservatives and artificial ingredients. 

Not everything is better at the market though.   Sadly, it is home to the world’s worst bakery which sells the most tasteless bread ever baked, not to mention tarts with uncooked dough and a scant quarter inch of fruit filling.  The next time I walk pass, the owner asks if I want something so I venture a tactful complaint – I figure if no one tells him he can’t fix it.   He tells me he hired a new baker so I bought butter tarts this time.  Same thing.  I gave up.  There must be an art to making play-doh like that?    Butter tarts are a national institution in Canada but I have a fine recipe inherited from my mother.   We have much better bakeries in town but I suppose once a vendor has tenure in the building, it’s for life, and so many people don’t know what good pastry tastes like.   But the bread – there’s simply no excuse.    Bread is the staff of life, but so is good nutritious food.   If you ate today, thank a farmer!    

PS.   Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving today! 

Wild Turkeys - AMc

Wild Turkeys

21 thoughts on “The Farmer’s Market

  1. lindasschaub says:

    Happy Thanksgiving Day back at you. Happy Harvest Day. I really enjoyed reading this post. My grandmother grew up on a farm and she used to talk about her father going out in the fields after a hearty breakfast. Her mother would walk out to meet him mid-day bearing lunch and cold drinks so he could toil more hours til he came in for dinner – they had 9 kids. He had to provide for them as well as what he sold. But the camaraderie with other farmers who helped to bring in each other’s crops and though they didn’t always live close, they were always willing to lend a hand. I go to our City’s farmer’s market a few times a year – I was there earlier this Summer and try to make it for Fall to see their big sunflowers and pumpkins fresh off the farm – maybe too late for sunflowers now, though we had temps in the 80s today. I laughed about the bakery vendor. I was at our City farm market and saw a woman selling cornbread cakes – the whole pan of them. My mom used to make cornbread muffins or twists when she made homemade soup. So, I thought I’d get three or four cakes for my mom to cut up and put in the freezer – less work for her (though nothing is nicer than walking into the kitchen in the middle of Winter, having walked home from the bus stop, etc. and smell hot cornbread). We took them out the first pot of soup she made – hard as my head and tasteless and while the produce was cheap, the baked goods weren’t – last time buying from her. It was interesting about the farm implements as well. My grandmother came to visit here back in 1976 and I took her to Greenfield Village – they have a whole part of the museum dedicated to old-time farm implements and clothing – she had a whale of a time, looking at the old farm implements and kept saying “my father had one of those, or I used to climb up on here and my father would scold me.” I was so glad we went there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! My dad had a small combine in his later years but my mom remembers the early years when they had threshing crews in for lunch and supper and having to feed up to 20 neighbours who would go from farm to farm helping with the harvest. They ate in shifts, all big meals and lots of pies and cakes etc. I have heard Greenfield Village is a wonderful place to visit. I have never had cornbread before. I don’t know how this bakery at the market gets away with such bad stuff as how would they get any repeat customers – you might try it once but never again, and it wasn’t cheap either!

      Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I did because it reminded me of stories I’ve heard through the years. They have renamed Greenfield Village as “The Henry Ford” … I liked it better with the old name, but I think they did this because they now incorporate the Ford Motor Company Rouge Assembly Plant into their price of admission, or as a side trip. I’ve not been in many years and intended to go to their old car festival they had the weekend of September 8th and 9th – but the weather was gray and gloom on the 8th and an all-day rain on the 9th. If you become a member of The Henry Ford, you get to attend more events and they have a horse-drawn sleigh at Christmas time that goes through the Village. When I was young, my parents took me to Upper Canada Village – it reminds me a little of that time. As to farming, I would hear those nice stories about the neighbors going from farm to farm and thought that I really should have lived in another era. Cornbread is really good – light like a pound cake, but made with corn meal. We’d have some butter and honey on it … Pillsbury used to have cornbread twists you just popped into the oven and they were great for soup. If I dropped that woman’s cornbread cake on my foot, it might have broken it! I just Googled and looks like Pillsbury no longer makes those cornbread twists – I found a copycat recipe if you want to try it sometime. We have the Jiffy mix over here in the States, small mixes and used to be a perfect size for a small family and a better bargain than Betty Crocker, etc.: https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/cornbread-twists-pillsbury-discontinued-copy-cat-525102

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        The membership might be worth it for the sleigh ride! I posted about my dad’s old sleigh/cutter last Dec. under my Christmas Playlist. Thanks for the link to the cornbread recipe – last night after I saw your comment I was reading Susan Branch’s Autumn cookbook and there was a recipe in there too, so I might give it a try. Of course it’s not soup weather here yet – more like summer today!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        That sleigh ride would be a draw for me too. They have other little events that sound interesting as well. I just read and enjoyed your post very much. I left you a comment about all the nice memories that I recalled while reading it. I like Susan Branch and when I still worked on site, I always had one of her calendars up on the wall. Do you follow her blog? I do and just pop on there from time to time – I don’t know if you can follow it or not – I just went on there years ago, before I started blogging and just hop on there about once a month. Here is her site, if you’ve not been there, but you likely have as you have a cookbook. Do you get her “Willard newsletter via e-mail?”
        She puts it out maybe quarterly – it is not on a regular basis, but I enjoy it, especially the Christmas one with the cookies.
        If you don’t get it, you must be able to sign up on her website, or I’ll forward you one the next time one lands in my inbox.
        https://www.susanbranch.com/

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        Susan Branch is someone I only discovered recently. I know she wrote all those cookbooks years ago but I wasn’t into cooking much then. Last year I read her trilogy of memoir books, Martha’s Vineyard-Isle of Dreams, The Fairytale Girl (about growing up in the 60’s) and A Fine Romance (about her trip to England). If you have not read them, they are like illustrated diaries, very unique, but I would start with Fairytale Girl first, as I started with the middle one about Martha’s Vineyard and was confused as to how/why she moved there. I passed them on to two of my friends, and my mother, and we all enjoyed them. They are hard to find in Canada as she self-publishes them now, so I had the library order them in. Thanks for the link, but I do received notices on her blogs, but I never seem to get any Willards? Maybe she is busy working on the new book? I suggested on her website that she go to Italy or France next, as she is repeating England, with Ireland and Wales.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I’ve never bought any of the Susan Branch cookbooks as I’m not into cooking (maybe when I retire), but I did like her calenders. I don’t follow the blog, but just pop onto it every so often as I like looking at her quotes, her illustrations and her home is just so cozy looking and that Jack … such a cutie, even though I’m not a cat person (allergic to cats). The last several times she has been on a trip or returning from one. I like how she goes into the small book shops and visits with fans. I really like her artwork and that is the reason I bought the first calendar. The “Willard” is what she calls her recap that she sends out via e-mail … it is not a regular feature and I’d say she sends it out maybe once a quarter. At Christmastime she sends out the cookie Willard e-mail. There is an illustration with the names of all kinds of Christmas cookies and they are the links and you click and the recipe is there. Very unique.
        I thought I might have saved one in my e-mail as I do e-mail them to people who love to make cookies, but I don’t have one. When I get one, I’ll e-mail it to you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Hmm – Just Googled “Susan Branch’s Willards” and it says she does them once a month. I wonder if this is what you get – this is what I get from her . I must have signed up years ago when I bought the calendars. Here is the sign up and previous “issues” though they are not monthly when I glance at the archives and I clicked on December and it is not the Willard that is exclusively Christmas cookies. I have no idea why she calls them “Willards” ???
        https://www.susanbranch.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        Thanks, I subscribed again, but I think I have before? A friend who signed up, never gets any notices at all, so I forward the blogs to her. I do get notices of the monthly blogs in an email. But maybe I don’t get the Willards because I didn’t list a state? I think there is a story behind the name somewhere on the website. If you have not read her illustrated books, they are a nice treat, I just browse through the cookbooks.

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      • lindasschaub says:

        Well I just read all your e-mails – that is puzzling that the posts are advertised as monthly, but the archives do not show them as monthly. I know for sure I get the Christmas e-mail but not a monthly newsletter. Now I understand why they are called “Willards” – I must’ve missed that. So, to get to the bottom of the mystery, (hopefully), I just Googled “Susan Branch Christmas Willard with Christmas Cookies” … well Bingo. I found it at the link below, but I am positive this Christmas cookie post comes by itself. Maybe I am wrong. So, Google found Pinterest and clicked there when I saw the Christmas ornament with the cookie recipes. There are not a lot but it is nice how she did it. Strange. Anyway, here is the link, scroll down and click on any cookie name and the recipe will come up: https://www.susanbranch.com/newsletters/2012-12/

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        Thanks, I saved it for Christmas. If you go to the Susan Branch website, on the right under About Me is an orange icon – when you click on that it takes you to a subscribe page so you can get notices of the monthly blogs – that’s all I remember doing, and I get them regularly. They’re always a cheerful thing to read.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Maybe I’ll subscribe again as I just try to go about once a month to the main site … they are cheery, so much talent and you feel like you are right there with her. I was following a blogger I really liked and it was about life in the country. She reminded me a little of Susan Branch and also Ruth Soaper. Kim wrote about cooking, their home, chickens, roadside stand – and had a post about some health issues of her own and never posted again. I left a message on her last post after a short time, then after another month went by, I wrote her on the contact page and said I hoped her health issues were not keeping her from posting and her busy schedule. She wrote back to say her health was better but they had two serious illnesses in her immediate family and she hoped to be posting again. Here is the link to her blog here on WordPress and if she posts again, I’ll let you know if you like her. I did enjoy her posts and pictures and she loved my squirrel posts and got a kick out of them.
        https://reddirtcottage.com/

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      • lindasschaub says:

        Yes, I enjoyed Kim’s posts and she was quite entertaining when writing about her small farm – a few funny chicken stories. She wrote a poignant post about putting down their older family dog – knowing she should but couldn’t bring herself to do it. I wonder if she changed the “About” page because other people wrote and asked if she was okay and easier to say this – she just told me illness re: two “close family members”? She also closed the comments on her most-recent blogs from back in April and May. Hopefully she writes again. Glad you liked her writing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        If you scroll down the subscribe page the newsletter is named Willard after her grandfather who wrote long newsy letters. Also, looks like no archives past 2017? Maybe she’s too busy writing her books?

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  2. aguycalledbloke says:

    What a great post. It’s been a while since l have seen a seriously good farmer’s market here in the UK. Things are dying a bit for this style of shopping sadly. i loved hearing the Greenacres song again, l used to watch it in Australia – good memories indeed 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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