How fortunate I am to be on the Board of the local Montpelier Farmers Market as a customer representative. This remarkable group has been providing fabulous, local, organic produce and food products and handmade crafts for 45 years. From early April through the end of October, the weekly market is outdoors—this spring the first happened during a blizzard!—and in winter, we’ve been every other week at an indoor location, though this COVID winter we are planning on being outdoors with a pre-order and pickup market.
These folks are up bright and early on Saturday morning to be ready with stunning displays of their produce and wares. And, of course, all week long they are in the fields, the greenhouses, the pastures, the studios, usually with long hours and back-breaking work. One of the reasons I love buying my food here—about 90% of what we eat in the summer—is because I know who grew it.
Alan LePage, for instance, a has been a cornerstone of the Market since the beginning and grows food on a farm that has been in his family since 1865. Yes, that right: 1865! He and his daughter are geniuses at growing Italian beans, melons, tomatoes, strawberries, salad greens (all winter long!) and much more. For apples, plums, lamb, various cheese, I can go to Josh. And yesterday, Andy had a big pile of corn—all brown on the husk from a hard frost (25F) last week but inside, still the perfect definition of summer. Ten kinds of tomatoes from Hannah and fresh herbs from Chris.
This time of year the abundance is wonderfully overwhelming. Like many I carry literally fifty to a hundred pounds of food away each week. Every week of late I eat tomatoes until I burst, eggplant in every way imaginable, scrumptious lamb or pork, and half dozen different kinds of melon. Did I mention tomatoes, a dozen different varieties?
My freezer is full to the top with corn, roasted peppers and eggplant, meat and a great deal more, all ready to carry us through the long Vermont winter. Garlic, squashes, onions, all wait in the cellar to find a place in our next meal. We are truly blessed, and I don’t use that term often, to have these amazing people growing food for us.
Farmers markets are not uncommon, but their success depends on our supporting them. Sometimes I hear people complain about the cost of fresh market produce. The truth is grocery store produce costs more, often much more, when you add in the detached costs we also pay for environmental and health damages, excess transportation, and societal consequences of agribusiness. If you have a local farmers market, please support it, or support farmers by purchasing a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which gets you fresh food every week direct from the farm. As we head into deeper unknowns with climate change, it is smart to nurture local farms and farmers. Smart and delicious!
What a wonderful tribute to the spirit of a community, in spite of COVID. Every picture shows people masked and being careful–and the idea of continuing in winter with outdoor pickup is brilliant. You’re so fortunate to live in such a caring city–and the city is VERY lucky to have you as such a vital, active resident. I’m going to forward this to the Manchester gang and Cathy King, who runs Frog Holler farms; Patty gets her CSA allotment there, and Cathy King is a real inspiration. As are you! 🙂