|Vegetables from Gorman Produce Farm|
I'm a vegetable fan. Vegetable posts don't get big hits, but they're a big part of my cooking. I'm a Mark Bittman acolyte. I'm also a novice canner.
For the second year, RDAdoc split a Gorman membership with us, and we're getting much of our vegetables through the CSA or their farm stand. I always thought that I'd be that blogger who posted each week about what I get and what I cook. But it hasn't worked that way. The vegetables just find their way quietly onto the table.
Instead, I'm the blogger who just thinks about farm stands.
First up, Gorman Farm news: The Laurel farm has a new phone number 301-908-8063. They have a new parking lot too, if you haven't visited this year. The farm -- just east of Rte 29 on Gorman Road -- is an easy drive from anywhere in Columbia. They sell their own vegetables, and they're delicious and last forever in the fridge.
Second, Jenny's Market in West Friendship. Jenny's is a family-run business that has been selling produce from their front yard since at least when I first drove out Rte 32 in 2008. They stock produce from all over. They line Rte 32 with fun hand-written signs. AnnieRie posted last week that Jenny's stand had been hit by trees. She said they were upbeat and had moved to sell a little up the road. I wanted to give them a shout-out and a wish for a quick recovery.
Finally, farm stands in general. On the one extreme, you have Gorman where you go to the farm and buy vegetables from the farmer. I enjoy it. I enjoy having a farm nearby. I enjoy meeting the folks and talking about what has ripened and what's coming.
Then you have the middle like Jenny's where they're clearly selling produce from all over -- bananas, peaches, etc. -- but with the normal claims that you'd see in a grocery story. No one claimed my watermelon from Jenny's was local. They just rejected the first one that Mrs. HowChow selected and found one that seemed better to them. (And carted the reject out back and away from the stand.)
Then, you have the stands that make me nervous. Shoppers pay for "local." They pay for "organic." I'm not going to make a federal case, but I get suspicious when people on the side of the road seem to have special access to produce that's too early and too perfect and too cheap to be "local" fruits and vegetables. Nikki in Ellicott City said she gets cranky when she suspects some local stands just re-package produce they buy on the commercial market.
And Nikki saw it done:
I went the [redacted] Farms Stand to get some sweet corn a few weeks ago. I asked where it was from and who on earth had corn already - lady said, "Southern MD" - I was a bit suspicious, but I know everything is very early this year and I buy local whenever possible, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt.
Then, while I waited to pay, I watched a kid working there opening plastic clamshells labeled "Jersey Blueberries" that he took out of a BJ's style box also labeled "Jersey Blueberries" - and dumping them into organic-looking green pressed paper pint containers and placing them on the 'local produce' shelf.
Total Shenanigans - especially given how many Maryland farmers have blueberries available right now. Don't get me wrong, Jersey blueberries are fantastic (also a particular type of bush, I have one in my yard) but these were not local. Just the repackaging from plastic to pressed paper was wasteful. To me, it was both deceptive and disappointing.
I want to buy local - that's why I'm going to farm stands, but when I seem them transferring from packaging that I saw 30 minutes later at Lotte for 1/4 the price...that makes me wonder what the point of buying local is.Nikki and I are both cranky. I'm suspicious of paying more for anything when it's being sold to me by Big Agriculture in the guise of little companies. (See the NYTimes from last weekend about how "organic" means things that you might not expect.) But I run into the problem at produce stands, and I have to say that, unless I have a reason to trust folks, it makes me buy very little.
If you want folks who post inspiring reports about the CSA, check out the local blogs in the right column including Kitchen Scribbles who belongs to the Breezy Willow CSA or AnnieRie who shops all over.