Each week on the Farmers Market Minute, community development specialist and foodie Richard McCarthy explores the variety of people and produce who make up this delicious region's farmers markets — from uptown to downtown, Covington to Gretna.
About a decade ago, I was visiting a particularly beautiful part of Kentucky to help a community grow its farmers market. Dinner involved farm-fresh items on a comfortably rustic ranch, and thoughtful dinner discussion was led by original and influential author Wendell Berry.
I recently learned that Johnnie A. Clark, Jr. had died in his sleep at 90 years of age. For longtime farmers market shoppers, you may recall the retired postman turned farmer, who held court on Saturday mornings among his offerings of cut carrots and greens. A real gentleman, Mr. Clark could also be fire and brimstone when issues of social justice and dignity for ordinary people are at stake.
As the Jewish community approaches the final nights of Chanukah, I am reminded of a recent conversation I had with Domenica’s Alon Shaya. Of course, his interpretation of traditional Jewish holiday meals is now legendary.
The Israeli-born Alon was browsing market stalls for root crops. He described to me how he had recently catered a kosher wedding, and then stepped forward to say, “The way I see it, Kosher is not only among the original health codes (pre-dating our Health Department by a few thousand years) but it’s also a code for sustainability.”
Folsom flower farmer Shirley Randon battles the elements each week to harvest and assemble gorgeous nose gays and full-on bouquets of flowers. Knowledge of these challenges makes me appreciate her delicate, hand-crafted, dried floral holiday wreaths.
Have you seen them? Whereas contemporary wreaths feature vivid synthetic colors, Shirley’s are beautifully faded by the sun. These are colors we rarely see any more in commerce. Imagine a ring of dried cosmos, bachelor's buttons, sunflowers and more.
I spent this past Thursday afternoon zipping from one farmers market to the other. Whereas Saturday markets are altogether larger gatherings with greater choice, our city’s Thursday evening markets offer some surprises.
Nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday.
Originally started by American Express, this national day to shop small and locally fits so nicely with farmers markets. After all, you can’t get much smaller than the family who farms and sells their products directly.
If you’re storm damaged like me, you get drawn into every radio interview you hear about Hurricane Sandy: The disbelief, the frustration, and the delays. In every instance, I think to myself: “This sounds oh, so familiar.”
Also familiar is what I’m hearing from farmers market organizers in New York. Fishing families were hammered hard; farmers less so. It has also been gratifying to learn that some of Manhattan’s hard edges are softening. Trauma is heeding to people’s need for gentleness.
With cold weather approaching, are you taking care of your skin? Farmers market vendors are always talking about healthy skin. After all, they are always outdoors.
Recently, I was spellbound whilst listening to celebrated Turkish cook and Covington Farmers Market vendor Nur Pendaz. In conversation with a young mother, she described how important it is to moisturize ones face with “ghee.” I have to admit: I didn’t see this coming.
Earlier this week, I stood in line at one of the markets anxiously watching Washington Parish farmer Joe Dobie weigh ten pounds of fresh chestnuts for a group of shoppers. Thinking these shoppers were chefs, I followed them to learn what on earth they could be doing with so many chestnuts.
In late October, there are many reasons for which to be grateful. Among them, there is the arrival of Louisiana satsumas.
This year, their arrival is bittersweet. By this, I am not referring to their taste. If anything, this might be the sweetest October crop I can remember. However, there will be far fewer Louisiana citrus products on offer at markets, roadside stands and stores than in previous years. Yes, Isaac did a number on our Plaquemines Parish citrus farmers.