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In Their Own Words: Indian Creek Farms

Bob’s Note: This week we feature another BFM vendor, Indian Creek Farms, in their own words on Let’s Get Fresh. Jeff and Nadia Myers of Indian Creek are new to the Market for this season. Those of you following along at home will recall that this is the promised follow-up blog to last week’s Price Survey. Specifically, Jeff and Nadia address the uphill battles faced by small chicken farmers.

We at Indian Creek Farms LLC are a veteran-owned small business farm operating out of Harrisville, WV, in Ritchie County. After serving our great nation both in the US Armed forces active duty for 20 years and then going back to Afghanistan and Iraq for another 10 years we had the opportunity to get a taste of both global travel and cultural diversity. Although this experience cannot be fully expressed in words alone we have come to realize that our second career needs to be back to “ground zero” meaning where our heritage started; beautiful country living and raising clean, wholesome food products which are free from all those synthetic additives that I cannot even begin to pronounce.

It was during the summer of 2006 that we watched the brilliant documentary, Food, Inc., which not only changed our mindset on how we wanted to live but moreover motivated us to become producers of “Beyond Organic” chicken and eggs.

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Nadia and Jeff Myers of Indian Creek Farms

Moving forward, we were fortunate to find a small farm plot here in West Virginia and immediately started farming. With little background experience in farming I like to call it “Feeding from the Fire hose on-the-job training”. Literally, we just jumped feet first into it. We quickly realized that the consumer market was screaming for good wholesome farm-raised food and we decided that “Chicken, Brown Eggs, Lamb, Rabbits, and seasonal Turkeys” would be our primary focus.

After doing a little research we found Non-GMO feed for our birds and already had good well water as well as green and clean pasture in which to raise our livestock. At present we are into our second year and the lessons learned are quite immense. Between figuring out rotational grazing, putting up hay, preventing predator issues, and keeping our livestock healthy through the winter we definitely had our hands full.

Thank goodness we didn’t have to invent all the rules by ourselves. By continually reaching out to both our extension office and our local friendly farmers as well as doing some late night reading we have done quite well. However, there are always the unexpected bolts of lightning that occur when we least expected it; such as the 9 inches of rain within 2 hours one early morning at 3 am that washed away 60 of our fully grown broilers and their 8×8 chicken tractors or the sly red foxes that always come unannounced for free chicken dinners, etc!

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Franky the Rooster at Indian Creek Farms

All that aside we continue to enjoy what we do and look forward to continuing a “Beyond Organic” farm production model which supplies the demands of our customers here in West Virginia.

I would like to conclude by leaving a message with our fine customers and patrons which is this; “If you demand it the Farmers will produce it”. Let’s get back to basics and demand good, wholesome food from our local farmers. Let’s stay away from the vicious circle of Big Pharma. Let’s ban GMO products and foods that contain preservatives, pesticides, and herbicides. And, finally, let’s make the conscious decision to support local production and know where our food comes from.

We strongly believe that everything we need to stay healthy in mind and body is provided for on this wonderful green earth, it just requires a little blood, sweat, and tears to make it available. Educate yourself and remember you really are what you eat. Live healthy and stay vigilant. Have a wonderful happy and healthy life from Indian Creek Farms LLC.

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Thanks Jeff and Nadia! I would also add my take on another of Indian Creek’s products that they neglected to mention, their merguez sausage. If you’re not familiar with this lamb sausage that’s native to North Africa and the Middle East get yourself to Indian Creek’s tent today and get yourself some then thank me later!

We have some big doings at the POP Club tent this week with the arrival of Mountaineer Therapy Dogs. See the flyer below and make sure your kids get entered in the drawing for a free set of Laura Baldwin books. Dogs and free books! Does it get any better than that?

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PRICE SURVEY

Our 4th Annual Pricing Survey

That’s right, loyal Marketeers, it’s that time of the season again! Time for our annual price survey. And this year it’s bigger and better than ever! For those of you new to this, 2016 is the 4th year that your fearless blogger has taken on the task, very unscientific mind you, of gathering pricing data at a peak-of-the-season Market day (last Sunday to be exact) and then crunching all of those numbers thru the BFM Supercomputer to arrive at a BFM average price.

That being done I then hit the streets (somehow avoiding detection and possible arrest and incarceration) and made it to two popular, local supermarkets where I (again, very unscientifically) recorded prices for the same items. I use the term “same” very loosely in this instance. As you will see below this is very much an apples-to-oranges comparison.

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A selection of produce from Green Acres Farm

Now, the point of this exercise is not to show that a Farmers Market is going to be cheaper than a SuperDuperMegaStore. Although in some instances we are indeed less expensive, there is no way for small producers such as those found at the BFM to compete across the board with these behemoth corporations. Instead farmers have to depend on that age-old axiom, “You get what you pay for”.

At this point I could go into all the reasons why you should shop at a Farmers Market, healthier and fresher food, keeping your money in the local economy, etc., but we have preached all of that ad nauseam in these pages. So, without any more commentary from me here is the 2016 BFM Pricing Survey:

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Behold, this year’s Price Survey. Click here for an easier to read and printable version.

 

So why do I say this is an apples-to-oranges comparison? Well, for starters the majority of the produce you will find at the BFM is grown using chemical- and pesticide-free practices. And some BFM farmers even have differing degrees of organic status. While none are “USDA-certified Organic” (see an old blog of mine for more info on that) the beauty of a Farmers Market is just that, The Farmer. He or she is there, alive and in-person, so you can simply ask them what practices they follow. Can you do that at the supermarket?

And when it comes to meat, as you can see above, the farmers of the BFM are, with the exception of chicken, very competitive price-wise. The major difference here, of course, is that all of the beef you purchase at the Market is grass-fed and hormone- and antibiotic-free. If you don’t think that is a premium check out the price of the only grass-fed beef item I found at either supermarket, the 85/15 Ground Beef at Store B.

In this same vein the pork and lamb products listed above are all GMO-free and pasture raised. New to the survey this year are rabbit and farm-raised venison. While the Market has almost always had a vendor or two that offered rabbit this is the first year, due to some new state regulations, that venison has been available. For more info on rabbit meat stop by either Indian Creek Farm or Sweet Wind Farm. Laura Morgan of Sweet Wind Farm is also our one venison farmer.

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Heirloom tomatoes from Harmony Farm

 

As noted above chicken is the one area where a small farmer really has a disadvantage when it comes to price competition. For many reasons, the unfathomably large scale and destructive behavior of the industrial chicken processing corporations not the least, it is extremely difficult for a small chicken farmer to turn a profit. To me, who’s obviously not a chicken farmer, it must come down to finding a niche and just loving what you do. For my family it’s also about quality and taste. For more on this topic stay tuned here next week as two of our newest farmers, Jeff and Nadia Myers of Indian Creek Farm, will tell you the story of how they came to be involved in the chicken business.

As in most things in American life it comes down to individual choices. Pure and simple, choices. And I think you know what I’m talking about when I say we probably have too many choices. All we can do is perform some basic research which, hopefully, will lead us to decide what is most important to ourselves and our families. At the very least, I hope that my little exercise here will help you make some important decisions when it comes to feeding your family.

Until next week, Stay Fresh!

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A Wild and Wonderful Table!

First off the BFM, its volunteers, and vendors want to wish everyone a Happy National Farmers Market Week 2016! For more information on the celebration click here. And while you’re clicking on things click here and recommend the BFM in all five categories of the American Farmland Trust’s Farmers Market Celebration. As you can see we currently sit at the top spot in WV for all five categories. Let’s keep it that way!

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Graphic courtesy of the Farmers Market Coalition

We are also pleased to announce our latest fund-raising event, A Wild and Wonderful Table. In the past the BFM has held 3-4 events a year, usually Community Dinners, but this year we decided to hold one big event and make it really special. Here’s the official press release since it explains it better than I ever could!

The Bridgeport Farmers Market is leaving Bridgeport…for one night only.  A Wild and Wonderful Table is a premier dinner and fundraising event featuring fresh and delicious food from our finest local farms prepared by the states’ top culinary artists. The September 10th dinner in Sutton WV takes you to the heart of our state.

Join your friends and The Bridgeport Farmers Market for live music, craft cocktails and specially curated wines for this first time ever dinner celebration.

“It’s the perfect time to wrap up the 2016 growing season, share remarkable food and drinks and celebrate the good things sourced here in our Appalachian home.”, said Deb Workman, Board Member of the Bridgeport Farmers Market Association.

All proceeds from this extraordinary night will benefit The Bridgeport Farmers Market. Tickets are $75 per person or $140 per couple.  Seating is limited.  Tickets can be purchased by going to www.bridgeportfarmersmarket.com.

Dinner will be prepared by these West Virginia chefs:

Richard Arbaugh – South Hills Market

Pamela Delaude – Mia Margherita Coal Fired Pizzeria

Michael Diethorn – The Country Vintner

Geoff Kraus – Thyme Bistro

Jay Mahoney – Pierpont Culinary Academy

Cody Thrasher – Cody’s and Hash Browns & New Grounds

Tim Urbanic – Café Cimino

Joe White – Bridgeport Conference Center

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We hope to see everyone there!

Stay tuned here this Friday for our 4th annual Price Survey. Our expert researcher (that’s me!) has rounded up the average price for the most popular veggies, eggs, and meat at the BFM and then went out and compared those prices to our two largest supermarkets. The results may surprise you.

 

 

 

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Musings on Avocados and the Great American Southwest

I’d like to begin this week by talking to you about avocados. No, they’re not local of course but they are rather delicious and they just may help me to make a point.  While out west over the last month something very peculiar happened as I spent a week in Phoenix at the American Culinary Federation National Convention and the following week traveling around Arizona with my two children, Coburn and Marcella. (Editor’s Note: While Chef Jay is too modest to mention it here he was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs while at the ACF National Convention. Congrats, Jay!) The last time I was out there was 1995 with my young family and the kids were too young to remember much of anything let alone the fact that my youngest, Marcie, was presently in the womb.

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Our intrepid Chef Jay with his kids Marcie and Coburn at the Grand Canyon

As you may recall from previous blogs, I began my career as a young chef out west in the eighties after culinary graduation here in West Virginia and it has always held a very special place in my heart. So we felt it was high time we revisited the beautiful state again now that the children were old enough to appreciate the natural beauty and history of this classic southwestern territory. I won’t carry on too much about how wonderful the trip was but something stood out in my mind very much as we traveled about and that was avocados! I know, really Jay? How could one be so emphatic over something like avocados?

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Beautiful melon carvings presented by Chef Jay at the ACF National Convention! The rest of today’s pictures are of competition dishes presented by various chefs at the convention. Scrumptious, yes?!

Please let me tell you. What I instantly noticed was that the avocados tasted better and fresher than the ones we get here in the east, imagine that! Everywhere we went the flavor really stood out! Could it possibly have something to do with the fact that they’re all very local out there? Duh! Of course one would expect them to be fresher but the flavor was extremely pronounced, more so than I ever would have expected.  I had actually forgotten they tasted that great and I eat them all the time! I suppose as a chef I shouldn’t have been so surprised, nonetheless I was ecstatic and the kids didn’t have any problem eating Mexican or southwestern everywhere we went.  So, what does this have to do with a blog for local gardening and the Bridgeport Farmers Market? You’ve probably already figured that out but let me remind you why so many of us are so enthralled with all the wonderful products that fill the tents among the markets when we begin to see the fruits of labor from all the various farmers in our area. Local products not only taste better because they’re fresher and haven’t been traveling around (who knows how long) on their journey to us, but when they’re grown and harvested under natural and or organically processes they are nutritionally better for us as well. Kind of makes sense doesn’t it!

I’d like to share another example that I experienced several years ago in the mountains of North Carolina. I was very fortunate to have been one of the few chosen clients of a little operation known as Charlotte’s Greenhouse. Charlotte and her daughters supplied me for many years with the most incredible lettuces, herbs and flowers one could imagine. One season after cleaning up the kitchens from our New Year’s Eve Party I realized I had an extra case of their lettuces leftover in the walk-in cooler so I intentionally left it thinking it would be interesting to see how long it would last. Setting it in the rear corner of the cooler and basically ignoring it for three months. At that particular facility we closed down the kitchen for the winter season and during that period I became Food & Beverage Director for one of the local ski resorts. It was a nice break by the way, I just hate skiing! Ha! Anyway, much to my amazement when I re-opened the kitchen on March 1st the lettuces looked fine and there was no visible deterioration as far as I could tell. Were the heads fresh, how could they be? But yet they looked fine.

What did this tell me? It made me realize first just how fresh the product I was getting form Charlotte was but it also made me wonder how old the lettuces we buy in the grocery stores are when we finally get them and how long they had been in storage or traveling around the country side. Could these things affect the flavor, or rather how much do they affect the flavor? Hence the correlation with the avocados, right! Interesting to ponder to say the least, wouldn’t you?

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You folks don’t need me to tell you about the benefits of using fresh ingredients and local products that’s evident in just about every health article you read these days.  Not only are the nutrients more prevalent in fresher products but now they’re telling us that we’re losing more nutrient value form our fruits and vegetables by cooking them than we ever imagined as well. I’m sorry to say it but it’s not like we can blindly follow what the FDA tells us is it? It’s up to us as individuals to not only find out what we believe is best for us but to also inform the folks that toil over producing our foodstuffs just what it is we want and expect.

A little communication’s all we need to get the world back on its feet again! Don’t we wish!

We can also factor in the belief that when we buy local we’re taking better care of ourselves and also reinforcing and supporting our local businesses. It’s very easy, if you ask me, to convince yourself that it is in our best interest to invest in the community in which we live and raise our families. Wouldn’t you say?

 

Bridgeport Farmers Market vendors offer a tremendous variety of local produce, proteins, crafts and value-added products week after week, even through the winter months. As most of you know we’re open 10-2:00 Sundays at Charles Pointe in Bridgeport. Please join us to support community and the good folks that care about what we feed our bodies and minds with.

Hope to see you there! Enjoy the recipes below and click here for a printable version!

Bonne cuisine!

Chef Jay

 

Tomato Pie

1 Pie shell, par-baked (five minutes only)

1 Large yellow tomato

1 large red tomato

1 Tbs. Chopped Basil

2 teas. Extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

2 oz. shredded Mozzarella

1 oz. shredded Romano cheese, Parmesan or Asiago

Sea Salt & fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs

Get all things in place: (Mise en place)

1) Make the pie dough, bake five minutes and chill

2) Dice the onions and sauté with the olive oil, reserve

3) Chop the basil and mix with the onions

4) Shred cheeses

Method:

Core the tomatoes, cut in half and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Sprinkle Mozzarella evenly, covering the bottom of the pie shell.

Season the tomatoes with sea salt before arranging them neatly into a circle in the pan, also alternating with the red and yellow. Depending on the size of the tomatoes it may require a little more.

Gently lift the tomatoes to sprinkle the onion and basil mix thoroughly throughout the slices.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs and Romano cheese evenly over the surface of the pie. Cook approximately 45 minutes @ 350 F      Cool to room temperature and serve.

 

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

  •  Wash spaghetti squash and cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds with a large spoon.
  • Season inside of squash lightly with salt and white
  • Place squash inside-down on roasting pan lined with paper and drizzle a small amount of water onto pan, not covering the bottom but providing the pan with moisture.
  • Roast @ 350 approximately 50-60 minutes depending on size of squash.
  • Remove from oven when cooked but still firm. Invert squash so they will cool off quickly.
  • Using a large fork carefully scrape out the cooked strands of squash and reserve in a large bowl.
  • Season with salt, white pepper, dried or fresh basil, chopped garlic and olive oil.
  • Mix in (rinsed) seedless diced tomato and a small amount of heavy cream and grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Top with a small amount of Parmesan cheese and bake approximately 30 minutes or until lightly browned and hot throughout.

 

*Chefs Note: The heavy cream is not necessary but certainly makes it richer. I also like to drizzle a little white wine in the roasting pan at the beginning as well.

 

Gnocchi di Spinaci con Ricotta

2-1/2 cups Ricotta

1 bunch spinach

1 cup flour

2-1/2 cups fresh grated parmesan

4 egg yolks

10 mint leaves, minced

PINCH grated nutmeg

Salt & freshly ground pepper

8 Tbs……………………………………………………. butter

10 small leaves sage

Drain ricotta in cheesecloth lined strainer, set over bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Cook spinach briefly and chop, then use mortar and pestle to grind to a fine paste.

Add 2/3 cups of the flour, 2 cups parmesan, egg yolks, ricotta, mint, nutmeg and salt & pepper to the bowl and mix well.

Using 2 small spoons shape 1 Tbs. of mixture into an oval, then gently slide off spoon onto a floured surface. Repeat.

Add to simmering water in 2 batches; cook approximately 2-3 minutes

Sauté in sage butter and serve

Chefs Note: there are of course many ways of shaping gnocchi and any fashion will certainly work. I like rolling the mixture gently into a 1-1/2 inch wide log and then cut them with a dull knife or bench scraper, pinching as you cut, release and roll. This gives them that conch shell sort of bottom.

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And We Planted A Seed…

Bob’s Note: Well, this week one of my goals for the season comes to fruition. All season I’ve been trying to talk one of the “original six” vendors from 2009 to write a blog about their experiences during the early days of the Market. Let me tell you, they’re a reluctant bunch when it comes to talking about themselves! But eventually Liz Abruzzino of Hawthorne Valley Farm stepped up to the plate. And I think you’ll agree with me when I say she hit a home run with her anecdotes here. And I will attest that they are all true. Thanks Liz!

Actually, we planted six! In July, 2009, the Bridgeport Farmers Market opened at the parking lot in front of Bridgeport High School with six cautiously optimistic vendors lined up and ready to go. The rest is history!

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Welcome to the Bridgeport Farmers Market!

None of this would have been possible without our visionary, enthusiastic, and tireless Board of Directors who saw the opportunity and made it happen. Debbie and Bob Workman and Betsy and Kent Spellman are still with us, along with Dave High who worked ex officio until the move to Charles Pointe.

At the first market, we arrived to find market provided tents set up and tables in place. That seed, I might add, was one of the few that quietly withered on the vine as the number of participants grew! By year two, in fact, we had two rows of vendors’ tents, nearly filling the parking area.

In the early years, we encountered what came to be euphemistically referred to as “slack periods”. Imagine the BFM today with nary a customer in sight! Believe me, it happened! CD Cole, definitely our most colorful vendor, would stand in the middle of the market, looking to the heavens, while loudly beseeching SOMEONE to buy SOMETHING! And as time passed, they did.

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Alexis Workman waiting for SOMEONE to buy SOMETHING at CD Cole’s tent!

From day one music has been an integral part of our market. Mark Shelhammer provided the entertainment back then with his unique trumpet playing. In community spirit he donated any proceeds to his local church much as Annie Neeley and company aided with the recent flood relief efforts. Musicians are good people! With the help of resident musician Rus Ruppert the BFM has evolved into what the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram recently recognized as an important local music, as well as food, venue.

This collective creativity surfaces in other areas as well. The Market was initially envisioned as a food only venue. Yet it soon became apparent that farmers, by nature, are a very creative bunch! Our talented artisans are the “proof in the pudding”. Extra goat’s milk, or tallow, or lard, became soap. A fallen tree is transformed into a one of a kind wooden bowl or hardwood cutting board. We grind grain or corn for meal and flour, pick up a dried gourd and see a birdhouse. “Value Adding”, ag talk for turning trash into treasure, provides a nice boost to our sometimes meager bottom line.

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Dave Reynolds of Dave’s Greenhouse. Dave has grown to the point that he now takes up three tents at the BFM.

Yet seeds are planted to celebrate food and in this mission the Market has never wavered. We teamed with local restaurants who used our products in their cooking demos. We encouraged and supported community cook-offs and farm dinners. Another early vendor, Lenora Destito, held monthly fritti fries. Provence Market set up a brunch tent, soon adding tables and chairs for dining. We were becoming the destination we are today.

Before we become too complacent, however, we must consider the one fickle given of a farmer’s life, as well as an outdoor market’s, the weather. When the “Winds of Charles Pointe” kicked up several weeks ago I was reminded of the Perfect Storm which visited the fledgling BFM at the high school. It was a torrential downpour, lightning flashing all around us, striking a tree across the road. My husband and son-in-law jumped on plastic coolers to provide a dubious “ground” while holding down our ballooning tent. The storm sewers were overwhelmed as a tributary of Simpson Creek surged through the center of the Market, carrying with it odd fruits and vegetables – no bananas! – as well as the shards of broken canning jars and their contents. In the midst of all this, Anne Hart of Provence Market, presenting a cooking demo, gathered in her spectators, lowered the tent canopy, and, undaunted, continued to the finale.

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Larry Gardner of Gardner Farms in his natural habitat at the BFM

By the next Sunday we were all back, smiles on our faces, glasses half full. Undaunted, isn’t that the nature of a farmer? Truly, and with a nod to Paul Harvey, “God created the farmer”.

Our farmers planted some very viable seeds and they continue to flourish. No chance this group is going to wither on the vine! Today, a special nod to the originals–those still with us from our high school parking lot days. Stop by, say hello, and remembering CD, maybe you could Buy Something! Now, how could anyone resist?

Here are the original six. Amazingly, the first five of these folks are still with us!

Gardner Farms – Becky and Larry Gardner

Shipley’s Forest Hill Farm – Barb and Randall Shipley

Hawthorne Valley Farm – Liz and Frank Abruzzino

The Herb Ladies – Ann Nye and Carol Schweiker

Dave’s Greenhouse –  Dave Reynolds

Cole Farms – CD Cole

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Magazines, Books, and Poems – Oh My!

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost August! If you check out the Instagram feeds of Bonds Creek Farm, Jennings Brae Bank, Green Acres, and Harmony Farm, you’ll see the abundance of summer produce that is coming to the market. I’m just as excited as the next person about summer tomatoes – I actually got my first ripe one out of my garden this week and it weighed over a pound. It was a monster and boy did it make a good tomato sandwich!

If you’re looking for ideas of how to use the seasonal produce or even tips on how to start your own garden, you need to check out the BFM Book and Bean tent. Under the tent you’ll find Mother Earth News, Grit, Mother Earth Living, WV Living, and Garden and Gun magazines as well as a plethora of books from The Omnivore’s Dilemma to A Little Bit of Dirt (a bestseller!). The market has also been lucky enough to have the Bards of Yellow Wood joining us for the last several weeks providing poems for a monetary or book donation. I had poems written earlier this summer after we lost our dog to cancer and they were amazingly well written tributes to Lakelyn. If you have any books that would be useful in a high school English class, bring them out and get a poem in return!

I’m going to highlight a few of my favorite books under the tent and I encourage you to stop by on Sunday to peruse and maybe even purchase a copy! All proceeds benefit the market, so it’s a win-win!

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Homegrown and Handmade by Deborah Niemann,Free Range Farmgirl Cooking Grassfed Beef by Shannon Hayes, and Animal, Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver might just be my all time favorite book. I read it ten years ago and it really helped catapult us into the lifestyle we currently lead. Barbara and her husband Stephen moved their family from desert of Tucson to the lush green of the VA mountains. The book chronicles their journey into local eating for one calendar year. Stephen and Camille, Barbara’s daughter have individual essays sprinkled through the book on everything from the fuel demand due to our current food system to the inadequacies of a college dining hall. And if you’re like me and don’t make zoodles with your zucchini, then be sure to try their recipe for zucchini chocolate chip cookies.

Homegrown and Handmade by Deborah Niemann is another favorite of mine. Written in a different tone than AVM, this book is a how to on everything from starting a garden to knitting to starting your own home dairy. There are recipes scattered throughout and my favorite is for Creme Brulee pie – a great way to use up some farm fresh eggs!

Free Range Farmgirl Cooking Grassfed Beef by Shannon Hayes is a great primer on how to cook grass fed beef. Shannon discusses the differences between grass fed and traditional grain fed beef and why it’s important to cook them differently. It’s chock full of great recipes, but I particularly like the rub section. Stop by and give it a gander!

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Oh Say Can You Seed by Bonnie Worth, The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons, and A Little Bit of Dirt by Asia Citro

As a homeschooling mom, I had fun helping pick out some kids books for the tent. My kids love The Cat in the Hat and Oh Say Can You Seed does not disappoint. In true poetic fashion, the book chronicles the journey from seed to plant. With Thing 1 and Thing 2 along for the ride, it’s a great way to teach kids about seeds.

The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons is a fantastic resource to discuss all sorts of fruits and vegetables with your kids.  It’s a great way to visually show kids that potatoes and carrots grow underground and show that there’s more to life than iceberg lettuce. All of Gail’s books have beautiful illustrations and this book is no exception!

And last, but not least, is A Little Bit of Dirt by Asia Citro. I first stumbled across Asia in her first book, 150+ Screen Free Activities, and her blog, Fun at Home With Kids. Her latest book is an awesome way to get kids outside and literally, in the dirt. My kids are especially fond of the Bird Beak Game and the seed bomb lollipops look like a great project. I was able to work with the author to get us several copies of this book for the Book and Bean, so be sure to check it out!

The Book and Bean is also conveniently located next to Quantum Bean Coffee. So, be sure to stop by, grab a cup o’joe, and peruse the books!

 

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Appalachia and Herbalism: Old friends ….that are terrible at keeping in touch!

 

Bob’s Note: It’s that time of the month again when we feature one of the Market’s many vendors on Let’s Get Fresh. In their own words. This month I want to introduce you to one of our newest vendors, Hannah Maguire of Wild Sage Herbals in Morgantown. Hannah has been a great addition to our already large group of successful female entrepreneurs at the Market. Stop by her tent and ask her to tell you her snake story. It’s a doozy!

Appalachia is rich in so many ways. Rich in history, rich in culture, rich in community, rich in foliage, rich in adventure, and of course, rich in a culinary sense. So when exactly was it that most people started losing their connection to this beloved land? Was it the introduction of electronic distractions? Was it the allure of convenience food? Was it our hurried schedules that made it seem silly to spend precious time slowly constructing a healthy meal or making our own medicine when we could just simply buy those things?

I am always tickled by a particular reaction I get when people look at and read about my products at the market: “I don’t know what that word is!” Well, that’s funny because I bet your Grandparents did! I bet your Grandpa knew which plants he could easily grow to feed his family and which to avoid while working outside. I bet Grandma knew that if one of her children got a fever that she could pick something growing in the yard to quickly bring that fever down.

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Chickweed, one of the many herbs with medicinal properties.

For me, plant knowledge was not something that was passed down to me throughout my own childhood. I watched my parents nervously rush me to the doctor or hospital anytime I was sick because they didn’t know what else to do. I discovered Herbalism out of a respect for self-sufficiency and practicality. Why spend hundreds or thousands of dollars at a doctor’s office for something silly that just took a little research and education to fix on my own? I fell in love with the idea that all this green that you see driving down the road isn’t just generic “green”. It’s a vast array of amazing plants that all have purposes, intentions, and even subtle ways of communicating their many uses that it seems silly to me now to remain ignorant of it all.

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Mixing up a batch of my Rose and Calendula Mineral Salt Soak

When I was in Herbalism school in New England, I remember the day I was introduced to the “Appalachian Method” of Herbalism. I remember it fondly because it was the most fun of all the methods I had learned thus far at that point in my schooling. It basically meant doing away with all the math, measurements, ratios and specifics of chemistry and was simply just chopping up a plant, covering it with a menstruum (any liquid serving as a vehicle for extracting the constituents from an herb, depending on the kind of medicine being made) and basically just winging it! It involved trial and error at first, and then eventually knowing that plant so well that the outcome was rather known and predictable.

I wish more people would simply head out their backdoor, take walks, discover, try, learn, do, and use! LEARN what those plants are put there for. People don’t understand just how intelligent the plant world is. This network of “green” is entirely purposeful. If you walk around a vacant lot, maybe after a building was torn down and the ground took back over the land, or an old house was taken over by nature after the owners moved away, you will see plants. They all arrive to do a specific job. Not just a random array of plants that nourish the soil; but to regenerate and build nutrients, too. Plants serve to care for land neglected, to repair and return it back to working order so it can be used again.

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Hannah setup at the Market with her boyfriend Kevin Shon who volunteers with the Market’s POP Club.

If you keep seeing a plant around you and you wonder what it is, look it up! Find out about it and learn its uses. You might just find that it’s used for the exact ailment you’ve been experiencing, or that you have a use for it at home. It may have found you on purpose. Let the earth communicate with you. For your own health, and the health of our culture. To keep it rich and to keep our symbiotic relationship thriving. If you’re a fan of the phrase “everything happens for a reason” then nowhere is this ever more applicable than to the secrets and intentions lying within all that green!

Hannah Maguire is a practicing clinical herbalist with an office in downtown Morgantown. She provides consultations and classes and is the owner of Wild Sage Herbals. She has been studying Herbalism since 2011 and can be found every Sunday at the Bridgeport Farmer’s Market. You can reach her at hannahmaguire.com.

 

 

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We’re a Seasonal West Virginia Market!

Over the years one of the questions we have heard most often at the BFM is, “Where are the tomatoes?” The answer is really quite simple. All the produce found at the BFM is grown right here in WV and as you can see in the chart below WV grown tomatoes are only available from July thru October. And it’s not just tomatoes, of course. Peruse the chart a little further and you can see that, while there is a wide variety of produce grown in WV thru the course of the four seasons, most is here today and gone tomorrow. But that’s what makes eating seasonally anything but boring.

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Some beautiful fresh picked tomatoes from Bonds Creek Farm

But getting back to tomatoes and their seasonality I’ve learned that, as with most produce, special care has to be taken to keep the crop on schedule. One important thing I learned is how tomatoes ripen. While many plants convert light into sugar in order to grow (you do remember photosynthesis from grade school, don’t you?), tomatoes actually use heat to grow. This is because the heat (ideally between 65 to 70°F) helps tomatoes produce ethylene gas which in turn helps them to ripen. Actually, many fruits ripen this way such as bananas, peaches, and avocadoes. But too much high heat and humidity can cause many problems for the tomato including blossom drop, yellow shoulder, and leaf curling.

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Some tomatoes still on the vine at Harmony Farm. These definitely don’t have any of the problems listed above!

And here’s the rub. Tomatoes bought at a Farmers Market go through this process naturally using their own self-produced ethylene. On the other hand most mass-market tomatoes that come from California, Florida, or Mexico have actually been harvested at their mature green stage since they are firmer at this stage and therefore easier to handle without bruising. They are then artificially exposed to ethylene either in a storage facility or within the container in which they are shipped across the country. By the time they reach their destination they are a beautiful red. Ripe, yes, but as tasty and nutritious as a tomato purchased from a local farmer?

I, for one, believe that we have been “marketed” into thinking that the artificially ripened tomato is the best we can get when in actuality we have been eating them for so long that we really don’t know the difference. Of course, if you have been eating your own home-grown tomatoes your whole life you DO know the difference.

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Heirloom tomatoes from last season at Green Acres Farm. They’ll be back soon!

My challenge for you over the next month or so as the real-deal tomatoes start appearing at the Market is to perform a blind taste test between a Market-purchased tomato and a store-bought tomato. I think you already know what the results of that test will be.

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WV Seasonal Produce Availability Chart courtesy of WV Dept of Agriculture

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Founding Foodies

Happy Independence Day, loyal Marketeers! Today I thought I would share some Founding Father wisdom with you. In this case, I present a brief take on the farming and culinary pursuits of my two favorite Founding Dudes, Washington and Jefferson.

While it may seem a strange juxtaposition to my topic, the pictures I share with you today are from our food blogger, Chef Jay Mahoney, and were taken during his recent trip to the devastated town of Rainelle, WV. Jay traveled to Rainelle to help Mercy Chefs prepare and serve over 1500 hot meals a day to the  citizens there who were left with little more than the clothes on their backs after the floodwaters receded. The little town of Rainelle took the brunt of the death toll from the floods as 15 residents perished. The United Way of Greenbrier Valley is a worthy organization to donate to that will be dealing with the clean-up and rebuilding of Greenbrier County for a long time to come.

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Our own Chef Jay Mahoney on the far right with some of the other folks helping out in Rainelle last week. To the left of Jay is the founder of Mercy Chefs, Gary LeBlanc.

 

“I am once more seated under my own Vine and Fig-tree, and hope to spend the remainder of my days…making political pursuits yield to the more rational amusement of cultivating the earth.” George Washington in a 1797 letter to his plantation manager at Mount Vernon

 

Every good student knows that George Washington was called the Father of our Country but what is often overlooked is the possibility that he could also be called the father of our agricultural system. Among other things, Washington has been called America’s first composter. As early as 1760, he was mixing compost and using manure on his fields based upon principles he learned from the English farmers of the day. And, desperate to find a way to re-nourish his fields after the scourge that growing tobacco visited upon them, he was also among the first Americans to implement a crop rotation system.

He was also a keen student of animal husbandry and was the first American to breed horses with donkeys. This earned him another fatherly title, Father of the American Mule. As if all this wasn’t enough, he was also a commercial fisherman (once called the First Angler), a brewer (this time earning the title First Fermenter), a distiller, and a miller. While I have not heard it applied I think he should also be given the title, Father of the American Entrepreneurial System, because not only did he do all these things but he knew how to make serious money doing all these things.

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Some of the debris left on the streets of Rainelle after the floodwaters receded

 

“I am tired of a life of contention and of being the personal object for the hatred of every man who hates the present state of things” No, that’s not a quote from either our current or former president but from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to his daughter, Martha.

 

In 1807, when the above quote was written, Thomas Jefferson, at the time in the last two years of his Presidency, was busy planning for his final retirement to Monticello. In that retirement he planned to return to the pursuits that brought him his greatest pleasure. At the top of that list were good food and wine. While serving as America’s minister to France during the 1780s he took the opportunity to greatly expand his knowledge and collection of great wine. He bought more than 250 bottles in the first month alone! He also sent his slave James Hemings (who automatically became a free man when stepping foot on French soil) to be trained in the French culinary arts. James went on to become chef de cuisine at a famous Paris hotel before returning to America with Jefferson in 1789.

Of course this meant that Hemings would give up his freedom once on American soil. However, Jefferson promised to set Hemings free once he trained his brother, Peter (yes, Sally Hemings was their sister), to be Monticello’s new chef. Jefferson lived up to his end of the bargain but, alas, James committed suicide a few years later in Baltimore.

Jefferson’s White House became known for his opulent state dinners and other parties which featured the finest cuisine America had to offer along with a selection of the world’s finest wines. In those eight years Jefferson purchased over 20,000 bottles of wine. Since Presidents had to foot their own bills back then Jefferson left office deeply in debt.

Unfortunately for Jefferson, for all his scientific accomplishments, he was never the successful entrepreneur that his pal Washington was. While Washington was always offering wise farming counsel to his friend, it seems that, whether thru incompetence or just plain bad luck, Jefferson’s farming fortunes rarely seemed to pan out. One of his great disappointments was the failure of his vineyards at Monticello (ironically, Jefferson Vineyards, just up the road from Monticello, makes some great wines today). While he was known as one of the greatest agricultural scientists of his day, Jefferson was never able to figure out ways to profit monetarily from this success. In this field, as in so many, Jefferson’s legacy is that of the great experimenter.

Most of the information I shared with you today came from a fascinating book written by food historian Dave DeWitt called The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine. It is very entertaining and would be a great beach read if you are interested in more information on this subject.