The following series appeared on GoErie.com in the weblog written by Lenore Skomal, Gut Check: Making Simple Sense Out of Life, and is adapted here with permission. Learn more about Ms. Skomal at her website or find her on Facebook.
June 18, 2011: Westfield Farmer’s Market in New York
I am so excited! Not only do I get out of yard work today, I get to do my favorite type of shopping besides shopping for shoes: shopping for food. And the trip to Westfield, N. Y. is such a serene one, it’s going to be an all-around adventure. A cursory investigation of Westfield’s website has proved worth the effort. Not only is it a great website, it’s also up-to-date and informative. Apparently, the farmers market was voted in 2009 one of the top 10 Farmers Markets by American Farmland Trust, a 30-year old organization dedicated to saving farmland. The market is also a certified, New York producer’s market, meaning it only sells locally grown and harvested produce and products. No buying from a wholesaler and reselling it there. The organizers also use the venue for other purposes as well. Today there will be a master gardener conducting several demonstrations including wreath making and planting window boxes. The Westfield Farmers Market is located at the juncture of Rtes. 20 and 394 in Moore Park, about 35 miles from Erie. You can take I-90 to Exit 60, or extend your trip by driving Rte. 20 and enjoying the sites.
June 19, 2011: A Must-Do Excursion
This is a must-see farmers market, period. Only five years old, the Westfield Farmers Market didn’t happen overnight or by happenstance. It has been carefully cultivated and vendors of all walks of life have been sought out to participate. Even this early in the season, there are already 30-plus vendors lining the town green known as Moore Park. And by mid-summer, that number increases to at least 50. There are not only locally grown, seasonal produce and vegetables, there are crafts of the artisan variety, locally raised and processed meats, free range eggs, several Amish families with their baked goods, farm-fresh produce and maple syrup, and lots of great people, which was probably the best part of the entire experience. Thinking of last night’s dinner and a special breakfast for Father’s Day, we had to purchase some of the fresh foods. Here’s what we got for our $30: a dozen farm fresh, free-range, organic eggs; 2 bunches of the greenest asparagus I have ever seen, no lie; 16 oz. of freshly ground, locally raised sausage to go with those eggs; 16 oz. of ground lamb for dinner; a half gallon of freshly tapped maple syrup….wait for it…for $10 and goat cheese from a local Amish family. (Apparently the young woman’s brother made the maple syrup himself.) So yes, if you have read my previous blogs, I have finally found locally made maple syrup but I had to go to Westfield to get it. Over the next few days, I will share some of the conversation, sights and smells of the Westfield Farmers Market, and the unique crafts and people we found there. Every vendor deserves some print time here in this blog, but for the sake of space, I have picked several that highlight the cross-section of the majority. Oh, I almost forgot. I decided to make lamb curry with our purchases.
June 20, 2011: Where’s the beef? And the pork and the lamb and….
I said it once, I will say it again. (Actually I have said it far more than once.) But one of the huge benefits of being a practicing localvore is that you know where your food comes from and you can even have a conversation with the folks that grew or raised it. The Westfield Farmers Market is a great example of a committed group of people actively working to create something great. I wasn’t just impressed with the artisans and the quality of their work, I was impressed with the cross section of vendors this farmers market hosts. And it doesn’t just happen. Someone has to make it happen. Make that someones. I spoke with the co-chair for the Westfield Farmer’s Market (WFM), Blair Koss, and he admitted that generating interest and actively working to bring quality vendors is an ongoing job. He credited Erica Fiorella, WFM manager, with reaching out to other communities as well, adding that they were more than willing to share what they have learned about hosting a viable farmers market with any community wishing to learn more. One of their strategies appears to be reaching out to the vendors they would like to see showcased. “We actively sought out the Amish community,” he said, knowing the appeal of the Amish and their products to area residents. (And it was at one of the Amish booths that I found my maple syrup–32 oz. of the precious stuff for $10.) He added that his community is very much linked to Erie and there is a lot of interest in creating stronger ties between the two. It was echoed with the vendors as well. We purchased country sausage from Ivorywind Acres, a sustainable farm in Stockton, N.Y. the owner of which told us he was eager to establish business across the border. We hadn’t been thinking of pork, but when he saw that we had purchased some beautiful eggs from the vendor next to him, he called out, “How about some sausage with those eggs.” Great idea. Our eggs are brown, white, blue and green. Yes, blue and green. We were told by the vendor, Family Technologies, who also sold us our asparagus, that blue and green eggs are common– it depends on the breed. Inside, they are all identical. I was pretty thrilled to have such pretty eggs….I might want to save them. As we talked to the vendor from Ivorywind Acres, we realized that he wasn’t the only purveyor of fresh meats, organically raised. There were at least two other meat vendors, including Stand Fast Farm, known for its grass fed beef, and Parable Farm, where we purchased our ground lamb (yum). Pat was happy to serve us and said simply as we left, “We work hard and we love it.” Now that was refreshing to hear. Of course, the conversations were the highlight to our Saturday jaunt. Westfield Farmers Market is open every Saturday through the summer from 9 to 2 p.m. It’s in downtown Westfield, not far from I-90 if you prefer to drive fast, and right on Rte. 20 if you don’t.
June 21, 2011: The most eco-sensitive and practical way to recycle old plastic bags
Take a good look at the photo to the left. If you look closely enough, you might see that it’s not made of yarn. It’s a crocheted bag made from recycled plastic bags. Yes. It’s true, and the woman who came up with the idea and sells them at the Westfield Farmers Market is Nadine Stacy, who has been crocheting for 50 years. It can take her up to two days to make a single bag, because as she explains it, the plastic strips “are hard to work with for too long.” Nadine cuts the plastic bags into thin strips and hooks them together, then uses the strips as she would yarn. The result is a bag that is amazingly resilient and elastic and can carry a crazy amount of weight. Pulling one out, she said, “We put a 140 lb. kid in this and it held.” Nadine only sells her wares, which include gorgeous crocheted vests, blouses, outdoor hats and scarves, hand bags, you name it– at the Westfield Farmers Market. (Find it on Facebook) She calls her company, Toadily Handmade. She is one of many artisans at the market who sell one-of-a-kind not run-of-the-mill handmade crafts. The Westfield Farmers Market is open from 9 to 2 p.m. every Saturday. One of the perks about the Westfield Farmer’s Market is that the information table not only has everything you need to know about the region, it also provides recipes for the produce that you can purchase in season. This past weekend, we stopped and read through the recipes, one of which inspired me to purchase the beautiful asparagus I found (See the recipe for Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp). It’s genius marketing, really. Rounding up the Westfield experience wouldn’t be right without a mention of the Cross Roads Farm and Craft Market. This amazing find brings together vendors and artisans and is located just miles away. Now I haven’t been there yet, but when I do, I will tell you all about it.