I didn't actually get to post this yesterday afternoon, as I'd planned, because I left the camera in Miss Chef's car that she then drove off to work.I snapped this picture as we were leaving the Matthews market...she was indeed asking "What the...?"
Ah, a rainy Saturday morning in February...what better time to spring out of bed at dawn and head off to the farmers' market?
Okay, well maybe there wasn't a whole lot of springing going on this morning. But I did eventually drag myself out the front door with Miss Chef, canvas bags in hand, to go the the Matthews Farmers Market.
We are very lucky to have two well-organized markets near us, and we have gotten into the habit of visiting both. I prefer the Matthews market, because it is very strict about including only local growers. Everything sold there must be raised within 50 miles of the market. As a result, there are a lot of smaller farms there without any paid staff. So the person selling you your lettuce is the person who planted and harvested it.
The eggs we bought were gathered by the children of the woman who sold them to us. Her husband also writes a short weekly column in the local paper, so we get to hear about their turkeys' escapes, and difficulties with drought and freezing. It makes me feel better when my own veggies are struggling, to know the experts are having trouble too!
Thanks to Miss Chef, who is normally quite shy, we are getting to know some of the farmers personally. At least, she is! We stopped to chat to Michele of Bosky Acres (co-conspirator in the goat-cheese caramel sauce). She said the sauce was very popular and sold out! I shared my story about spreading it on a hot fresh baguette, and she agreed it sounded tasty. She was wearing a large button featuring a photo of one of her does, which is a smart little marketing move. She's in the middle of kidding season; one doe had been due Wednesday and was probably kidding as we spoke.
We also ran into Miss Chef's Chef from the restaurant. He was very sleepy eyed, and when he stepped under a tent and lowered his hood to discuss greens, we saw a lovely crop of bed-head. But he was still alert enough to sneak up behind Miss Chef and "accidentally" bump her into the rain. He's a fun guy, even when he is half-asleep.
At this point, Miss Chef decided she needed her coffee fix, so we stepped into the Community House. They have a small but very nice selection of hot and cold drinks, as well as a lovely collection of "local couture." We have bought ourselves three t-shirts so far, and I've been eyeing a sweatshirt.
People are often surprised to learn that such a small market is open during the winter. In fact, they do cut back to every other week, but there is always a crowd--not always a big one, but the farmers don't seem bored! Today we actually had to get in line a couple of times. On the other hand, I realized after we left that we hadn't bought a single vegetable! Here's what we ended up with: 2 lbs of grass-fed ground beef from Baucom's Best; a dozen hand-gathered eggs from Laughing Owl farm; 2 lbs of mild breakfast sausage from Grateful Growers; and 2 lb. bags of cornmeal and grits from Bost Grist Mill. Which, Miss Chef pointed out, is technically vegetables. Uh huh.
Our second market stop was at Charlotte's Yorkmont Market, a much larger one with several permanent sheds. They're huge and long, and two of them are enclosed, with actual heaters. They're also much more crowded, and include many vendors re-selling industrially grown products. However, the local Slow Foods group has provided the local farmers with small signs to help people like us support them. Several farmers have booths at both places; you'll see the wife at one market and the husband or adult children at the other. We had two things on our list here: dinner rolls from Nova's Bakery, and fresh shitake mushrooms from a sort of strange but charming guy we'd like to get to know better.
On the way home, I told Miss Chef how much I enjoy our market mornings. She was a little surprised, since I always make a big deal about having to get up so early. But we both like supporting our local farmers and buying food that is more nutritious and environmentally friendly. It makes me happy to be with someone who's willing to make it a priority...and to gently jostle me out of bed at dawn on a cold, wet winter's morn.