Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Farm Stands and "Farm Stands" -- How Does Your Garden Grow? Plus News From Gorman & Jenny's

Vegetables from Gorman Produce Farm
I wish that the hardest thing I had to figure out about vegetables was what to do with the flying-saucer squash that Gorman Produce Farm keeps giving us every week.

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.


Elizabeth @ The Bare Midriff said...

I agree. It's both confusing and overwhelming. It's sad that sellers would be so misleading, especially when you think that some people literally need the organic or natural foods due to health concerns.

Would government legislation help? Like registering the term "local" to mean that it must have been produced within a certain number of miles of it being sold?

I hate to give the government yet another food regulation to monitor terribly, but perhaps...

Brad Smith said...

I remember reading a number of reports of people at the Dutch Country Amish Market simply repackaging raw produce and even products (pickles and baked goods were two examples) for sale. They even snapped pictures of boxes from Dole and other non-local producers, many stacked out back of the building for trash/recycling. I've also known a few people who suspected dishonest scales, and found they were right when they got home. It comes as no surprise that some smaller farm stands are also dishonest, but I also wonder about the farmers' markets in the area.

BTW, any chance of a link to Nikki's post about the dishonest farm stand?

Anonymous said...

I bought excellent corn from the guys in front of Kendalls 3 times in the last week. All 12 ears were perfect.

Yesterday I stopped at Good Earth in Olney, and got decent corn , though not quite as fresh as the Kendall stand's offering.
I also picked up some Catoctin yellow peachs, first of the season, that are incredible!! My most favorite seasonal fruit.

Anonymous said...

There's another farm stand on Old Scaggsville Rd. just past the intersection with Leishear Rd.. Literally the produce from their backyard garden; sometimes the grandkids of the lady who owns the property are there monitoring/stocking the stand. They put the produce out and you're on the honor system to put the correct amount in the locked money box (so bring lots of ones....). I picked up great tomatos, zucchini, and cucumbers there the other day. Last year when their corn came in, we stopped to get some, and the preteen grandson picked out the best ears and threw in a couple of extra for free, since it was early and some of them were a little small.

Christiana said...

One of the BEST places for corn is the stand off 108 by the ACE Hardware near Roots. The corn is fantastic, they only bring in local corn (incl eastern shore, etc). But they don't show up till early/mid July for this exact reason. Give them a try!

K8teebug said...

The flying saucer squash is really good cut up in stir fries. My Dad grows it and it confounded me for a few years too.

Jblle said...

I worked at Dutch country Amish produce stand for years. Not worth buying from. Everything is from Jessup wholesale. Occasionally there is PA produce but it is rare and it goes quick. We repackage and take labels off. The Amish are not honest and the scales are rarely checked...that's more of the states fault though. They came through once in the many years I was there. Produce is placed back in the cooler from week to week, not everything is fresh. Go elsewhere and save some money.

Marcia said...

Baugher's stand on New Cut Road (near Rt. 103 & Rt. 104 intersection)grows all their own. Honey from their own bees. If you time it right, you are there when they come in from the corn field with freshly-picked corn. Can't get much more local.

Laura said...

The guys outside of Kendall Hardware in Clarksville ALWAYS have the best corn. I've been going there for a few years now. To top it off, they are always very, very friendly.

Carla D'Anna said...

On Flying Saucer Squash, lol, you inspired me to write down another of "My Italian MIL" recipes, Pasta with Squash is a summer time favorite.

The variety Rose used was the white pattypan squash. These are the little scalloped edged type of squash, they also come in yellow and green but Rose always used the white ones. They are in the family of summer squashes, eaten rind and all. They can be eaten very small and get tough if very large, stick to 3 to 5 inch specimens.

So, for this recipe, aside from the squash you need olive oil, tomatoes, onions, basil and salt / pepper...all to taste.

You saute a little stew of the veggies and toss it with cooked pasta, Rose use ditali or ditalini (short tubes). Top with a grated cheese.

Luvz2cook said...

There is a farm stand on Mcdonogh Road near Mcdonogh school in Balto. Co. that sells very fresh corn from the esatern shore and later this summer from their farms in Carroll county. I've watched the workers pull string beans off the vines and place them in baskets for sale. Most items are very fresh and reasonably priced. No

Luvz2cook said...

On my last post I meant to include that not all items appear to be local but at least 90% seem to be. You have to clean the fresh dirt off of the root veggies!