Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sentinel column - 8/30

As one of my farmers said yesterday, “there are no holidays during the growing season. Farming is 24/7.” Actually, for that farmer it’s 24/6 1/2 because his family always saves Sunday morning for worship.

So the market will not take a holiday either. We’ll be open on Friday, Saturday and Tuesday as usual despite the Labor Day holiday.

No doubt about it, this has been a strange year. With two major ice storms, floods and heavy rains all the way to July and now a relatively cool spell in August, it’s been hard to know what to expect.

Another unusual but welcome difference over previous years at the market has been our customer count during the last couple of weeks. Always before, our numbers dropped drastically once school started. Not so, this year. Saturday continues to grow and the weekday markets are holding strong. That’s really good news for our growers because they planted for a crowd this year.

Now you may say, if you planted so much, how come you're out of (peaches, corn, green beans, heirloom tomatoes – insert your favorite) by the time I get there? It’s not because we don’t want to sell it to you, but rather because of limitations on production or transportation. And, to be honest, sometimes because the growers just can’t believe they need to bring as much as they do.

I’m hoping I’ve finally convinced Pate’s Orchard to bring a gigantic load of peaches this Friday and Saturday. Every market day except one this year John shook his head in wonder at the numbers of people lined up for his peaches and said “I could have brought more…” So Friday he is bringing a TRUCKLOAD. And if it’s raining and he has to bring the smaller truck to keep the boxes dry, the Pates are bringing TWO vehicles. That’s quite a commitment considering they have to drive all the way from Stockton. I just hope our customers buy every single peach to encourage him to keep it up.

Marilyn and I were by the orchard yesterday on our second inspection visit of the season. I had never seen the orchard before in late August. It is heavy in leaves, with deep shadows under the trees. So different from the spring when the flowers are in bloom, but beautiful in its own way.

The orchard should be producing peaches almost to the end of September and then the apples will be ready for harvest. The Pates also have fall tomatoes planted in their high tunnel (photo below) that should take us all the way to the end of market (which is usually the last Friday in October).

Our growers are already making plans for next year. We probably had an increase in production this year of over 50%. If all goes well, our growers plan a similar increase next year. We have more high tunnels going up over the winter and more fields going into production. We’ll be hosting training sessions again to help our growers, as well as any of the public who care to sit in, farm and market smarter and better.

During our drive yesterday (Marilyn and I covered over 300 miles visiting 6 vendors), I told her that I could hardly believe the season had flown by so quickly. We’re down to the last two months and it will soon be time to plan for 2009. But the end of summer doesn’t mean the market’s abundance is over. Turnips, radishes, and new green beans are in the ground. Pumpkins, gourds and winter squash are ripening. In fact, Tuesday, the market was bursting at the seams with produce. We still have the best of summer and a hint of fall with the first sweet potatoes, mums, corn stalks, Indian corn and decorative gourds. (That's a pumpkin growing at Fairhaven at the top of the article.)

Lunch today is BBQ beef sandwich, baked beans, cole slaw, brownie & drink for $6. The Sours play traditional music between 11 and 1.

On Saturday we’re delighted to have Paul Rowden & friends back for a Market Jam. If you’re a musician, you’re welcome to join in, if not just have a seat and enjoy the music. Breakfast is served till 11.

On Tuesday, Gary Kyger will entertain us during lunch with music from the 30’s and 40’s, gospel and classic country.

CROPwalk benefits from Tuesday’s Cooking for a Cause. This annual hunger walk sponsored by more than 10 area churches raises money for local feeding programs and for poverty-fighting programs around the world. It’s a great cause, so put a big red circle around Tuesday and remember that having Monday off doesn’t push the market back a day!