Walking in a Winter Wonderland… of Local Food! The Winter Markets Have Begun!

Yesterday was an excellent day, if I must say so myself.  I was feeling well enough to go out, and looked well enough for Laura to let me out.  Outside of a little dizziness, I think I am back on track and ready to roll.  No more soups!  I can graduate to real food, like stews. 😀  That was great news, as yesterday was the first Wayland Winter Farmer’s Market at Russell’s Garden Center. Hot dog!

We have plenty of food still, some lingering root vegetables and lots of frozen stuff, so we went with only one major food in mind: fresh greens.  While we love our frozen greens in soups, stews, fritatta, etc, there is something divine about winter greens.  They are so sublimely sweet and crisp.  Not quite the lush verdant flavor of spring greens, which tells you the plant is chock full of chlorophyll for the summer ahead.  No, this is a more delicate flavor that plays well with the rich foods of winter.  Laura and I stood around after got home and nibbled on spinach stems from Red Fire Farm, relishing the refreshing sweetness.

Before I put on a photo parade of the market, I will let you in on the other reason we love going to this market.  When the weather is overcast, cold and dreary, like it was yesterday:

Normal January Day in Massachusetts

We get to sit around in this fabulousness:

Look at all of that green! It is so pleasant to chill in the greenhouse.

Pretty flowers to warm to soul.

We like to browse and chat for a bit, then sit on one of the benches in the greenhouse and enjoy the plants or the koi pond.  It makes for a really nice winter activity, with all of the shoppers bustling around, the greenery, the food and great atmosphere.

We came an hour after the market opened on the first day, and it was starting to get busy! Later in the season, it will get really crowded.

The vendors went most of the way down this greenhouse.

Scrummy looking pasteries.

The bagels looked fantastic. I wish!

Apples! Yummy!

Hooray for Red Fire! We got to see Ryan and Mark really briefly before they had to get back to work. They were out of cabbage, kale, collards and chard we we arrived, and were running low on lettuce and greens. Everyone was out for the greens!

I always love the Red Fire Farm displays. Very charming!

This is what we came for. Greens. Fresh, crunchy, crispy, salady greens!

We ended up buying spinach, baby salad mix, a kohlrabi, popcorn (!), three types of cheese from Lawton’s Family Farm and a roll of Amish Rolled butter.  Laura and I discussed the butter for a while before deciding to buy it, I think because we were under the impression it was made by Amish communities.  Turns out, it is Amish-style, not Amish made.

I have yet to decide if we should have bought it, given our slot requirements.  Minerva Dairy is a conglomerate of small dairies in Ohio, but it is certainly not a small business.  Not from New England.  And it is extremely difficult to tell if it is a sustainable business in any way.  We decided to make it two full slots, since it was a fair amount of butter.  We are not using it right now, as it has been cut up and tucked into the freezer.  We’ll have to think on this one for a little while, and use it as an example of how we should be more cautious when we buy things at farmer’s markets.  There are other stories out there about similar experiences, and this article from Harvest sums it up quite nicely. (Update:  There is a nice comment from the Market Manager below, who was kind enough to comment on our concerns.  I was happy to find out that the market vendors are screened before selling to prevent any resale of non-local produce.  It rebuilds my great faith in the marketing system in Massachusetts.  I am excited about this weekend!  More plants and greenery!)

We won’t let it go to waste, now that we have it, but it will be a kick in the pants to not get overwhelmed by the excitement of new market and really try to think things through.  Its hard to research everything, and we are trying to branch out from our safety farms.  Mistakes will be made, I suppose, and we will have to take it in stride.  I think I am most upset about the misleading advertising by the farm who sold it to us.  It was labeled “Amish Rolled Butter”, and the way it was presented was that it was a great thing to buy, really like buying locally, except there are no Amish in Massachusetts.  Maybe, though, that is what we wanted to hear.  We wanted to try the butter, so we took his words and made them into what we wanted to hear.  I’ll never really know, but more caution will be used in the future.  We’ll have to talk about it more, but as it stands, we’ll not buy from that farm stand anymore, learn form the experience and enjoy our butter.

Rolled Butter.

Let me tell you, atonement-requiring sin or not, this is some damn good butter.  Guilt aside, it is probably some of the best butter I’ve had from a large company.

What is your opinion?  Have you ever bought something from a farmer’s market, only to discover it was from California or Mexico, and being re-sold?  We’ve been doing well at teasing those things out, but we goofed this time!  The market was that fun and exciting!

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7 Responses to Walking in a Winter Wonderland… of Local Food! The Winter Markets Have Begun!

  1. Dad says:

    OH no so you two aren’t perfect!!! You two are soooooooo far ahead of most of us in your choices that one little boo boo is nothing to frown about. I’m glad to hear you are feeling better! Love you Dad

  2. nruit says:

    If you had to make a boo-boo, doing it with the Amish butter is the way to go! It is one of our biggest downfalls, but it’s difficult to find fresh butter that’s local. I haven’t tried making butter from our goat’s milk yet…

    Just found you recently. Love the blog :*)

    • Thanks for joining us!

      Butter is a hard one, we were spoiled from our stores of Sidehill Farm cultured butter. The new stuff is really tasty, though, and I can’t wait to bake cookies with it. We can turn a little boo boo into a food win!

      P.s. Your flock is divine! We knit, too, so we will have to purchase some yarn from you soon. Local yarn, from beautiful sheep. How can it get any better?

  3. Peg Mallett, market manager says:

    Thank you so much for coming to Opening Day of the Wayland Market. We have received a huge number of houseplants (arrived just before the snow), so you can expect an even more inviting atmosphere while you sit down and enjoy a breakfast/lunch treat!

    Springdell Farm asked our permission to offer the Minerva Dairy Rolled Butter at our Summer Market. They were completely up front about the fact that it was not from Massachusetts, but chose to sell it at their own farm stand, because of the superior taste and the fact that it is made from the milk of small farms. From the Minerva website:
    The Minerva Cheese Factory depends on a steady supply of milk — 400,000 pounds per day, to be exact — in order to maintain its production of 40,000 pounds of cheese and 7,000 pounds of butter per week. To keep the milk flowing, owner Phil Mueller relies on approximately 70 dairy farms, mostly small operations within 40 miles of Minerva. Mueller’s admiration for these farmers goes beyond appreciation for the truckloads of milk arriving regularly at the cheese factory. “I tell the farmers that I appreciate their hard work,” Mueller said. “That is a hard job. That’s a seven-day-a-week job; they put in a lot of hours, and they’re running their own businesses.” Mueller makes it a point to pay yearly visits to each farm that supplies the factory with milk, to thank the farmers personally. “That way they’re comfortable to call me,” he said. “A lot of them like that, that if there’s anything wrong, or they want to talk about where prices are going, we talk, or they wander in and sit down here.” This sounds like a similar arrangement as Cabot Cheese whom we have invited to the market for tastings (not sales) in the past. Springdell Farm’s sign reads: support small farms and that is true. The fact that it is not from New England, I take full responsibility for allowing. If we had a vendor with high quality, small farm butter at our market, the butter from Minerva would not be at the market. It sounds, that upon reflection, you like the superior taste of this butter. That is why Springdell was SO enthusiastic when they mentioned it this summer. Special days at the Wayland Market include two WOOL DAYS (1/22 and 2/12) featuring New England farm/wool producers and our first MASSACHUSETTS FARM WINERIES DAY on Jan. 29th during market hours – 10 AM to 2 PM. Hope to see you there!

    • Hi Peg-
      Thanks for the comment, we are happy to know that the market is so closely monitored! It speaks well for what is being done, and we love coming and enjoying your facility. We’re excited to see your new plants on Saturday.

      The butter was somewhat frustrating because A) while we might have bought it while not on our challenge, we feel like we slipped up on our goals and principles. B) The butter was not advertised as being amish-style, large conglomerate company butter, but rather as Amish Butter (made by the Amish implied). We like the idea of what Minerva Farm is doing (even though not a true co-op like Cabot), but there is a certain level of question we have for the company, like the fact that they are working to ensure that all of their milk is growth hormone free. We like our products to be good to the people AND good to the animals. Tough to do, but real Amish people generally do just that. An assumption on our part, and we hope Minerva can get there. Small farmers can do it, and we support them all the way. C) We still feel sort of taken in. As said above, was marketed to us differently than we would have expected, surprising us.

      I’ll say it again, though. It is really good butter, the best large company butter I’ve had. Still doesn’t beat small farm butter from happy cows, but it will be well enjoyed.

      Can’t wait for all of the upcoming events!

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