Last week when we posted our blog entry I was staying up until 2 AM making and wrapping bread for the Farmer’s Market which was held on Saturday the 13th of July. Now that we have had the event, we can report on how it actually went.
Friday afternoon one of our senior community persons, General Peyton, called me into the hall at the Big Ugly Community Center and had a serious talk with me. “You know you can’t schedule a Farmer’s Market here this early in the season. Nobody’s got anything to sell. No way it will work.” I just asked him to come by anyway. “And let me tell you,” he added, “You know better than this. In this sandy bottom soil along the creek bank, you can’t grow anything without real fertilizer. It’s nothing but sand. You’re old enough to know better.” I have to agree with that last statement– I am old enough to know better!
General, good-hearted soul that he is, had not attended the planning sessions we had for the Farmer’s Market. Marcelle had realized the problem early on, but the group had wanted to at least have a trial way to see if a farmer’s market could work for us here. So we went on a search for sources of produce that would be good. The nearest supermarket to Big Ugly is nearly 20 miles away in either Danville/Madison or Chapmanville. The nearest shopping centers are about 40-45 miles either north or south. No one goes there just for produce and the smaller store which is only 15 miles away has a very limited selection with higher prices. We thought if we could make a bi-weekly or monthly produce market work it would definitely have a positive effect on nutrition levels and maybe our budgets as well.
We went searching for local farms, pick your own places and other avenues that would supply us with produce. We found a farm in Putnam County that had fresh corn, green beans and the prospect of perhaps cucumbers and other locally grown vegetables. This supplier markets produce at the Farmer’s Market in Charleston, near where our other Step by Step office is located. Based on availability we could order in bulk and pick up at the Charleston Farmer’s Market and bring the produce to Big Ugly in my pickup truck.
Great! We were set for the event. (We also found a blueberry and blackberry operation not too far away as well as a produce supplier out of NC–but that’s another story for another time) Our KEYS program became partner in this venture. The purpose of KEYS is to educate young people about eating more healthy food and less of the unhealthy stuff that has become so pervasive in our society.
I had volunteered to bake homemade bread for the market. Proceeds could go to the children’s programs at the community center. I could use the Vulcan oven at the center and not heat up the house by running the stove all day and night. Man, that Vulcan can handle about 15- 19 loaves at a time!
I got the bread dough started and jumped in the pickup to run home (1.4 miles) to get the animals fed. OMG! No Brakes! Low gear. Get home. Check the brake fluid. Reservoir completely dry. Put in more brake fluid. Start engine. Watch brake fluid squirt out the back.
Marcelle had just gotten home and she learned about the dilemma. I went to finish the bread. Marcelle worked on a backup plan. John rested with the idea of fixing the rusted out brake line first thing Saturday morning.
Saturday morning I borrowed another car, went to the auto parts store, got brake line, compression fittings, fluid to fix the truck. Marcelle and Michael worked out an alternative method for transporting the produce. Jessie, Kathy and my daughter Judith fixed healthy snacks from the produce: Vegetable trays and fruit trays for folks to try something new.
Veggie burgers and whole wheat buns were available to try with grilled fresh vegetables. The huge produce load arrived via friends from Charleston. We asked them to stay and try items at the First Ever Big Ugly Farmer’s Market. We had 50 dozen ears of corn that was picked just that morning. Jessie’s dad, Pa Workman, brought fresh eggs from his chickens and potatoes, squash, beans and cabbage from his garden.
People came and went. Some bought. Some looked. Some just ate free food.
We were all so busy taking care of our assigned tasks that we didn’t have much time to step back and look at the overall progress. After the event we began to take stock of the situation. Man–there sure seemed to be a lot of corn left! Zucchini, too. A few pounds of green beans. No fruit on the tray. No vegetables or ranch dressing. No grilled vegetables or burgers. A lot of bread left on the bread table. Oh well, I thought–can’t win ’em all.
We all packed up our purchases and went home. The monthly community auction was getting underway so we left a few boxes of corn to be auctioned, if possible. We decided to wait until tomorrow to figure out how to cut our losses and not be terribly defeated.
I left with 3 dozen ears of corn, 2 cabbages, some brand new red potatoes, squash, green beans, and 2 dozen of Pa Workman’s fresh eggs. And one tired body and a lot of leftover bread. Oh well. I walked in the door of the house and slouched in a chair. I shucked an ear of corn and started eating it raw. OMG–it was so good. So tender and sweet and milky. It really had been picked that morning just as the farmer had said. We started passing it around and eating it raw. We shucked it all and steamed it right away so we could put it in the freezer at its best. The horses here thought the shucks were the finest treat.
Sunday it was hot-hot-hot and humid. We had fresh bread and eggs. It was SO delicious. I had forgotten how great really fresh eggs from truly free range hens could be. The yolks were a deep golden color and sat up so high. Later in the day we wanted more of the truly fresh food. The day had grown unbearably hot so we didn’t want to heat up the house–so I fired up the grill, cut vegetables into chunks, added a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, ad basil leaves from our garden. We fashioned makeshift aluminum pans and put the veggies on the grill with the top mostly closed. When the food was done–we feasted! Nothing could have tasted better. We also had the sweet, sweet corn.
Monday rolled around and we went to see what we would have to deal with. Some people wanted more corn. We processed corn, green beans, and squash to use for the children’s programs at the center. We serve them hot meals rather than just prepackaged items. We grated and froze zucchini to make homemade zucchini bread for Step by Step- WV’s 25th Anniversary celebration.
I thought all week about the First Ever Big Ugly Farmer’s Market. Was it a success or not? Nobody made a lot of money; nobody lost a lot of money. I only collected $19 for bread–not much. What were the objectives?
- Get a crash course in real life marketing. Check. Accomplished!
- Have community folks in general and children in particular try new, healthier foods. Check. Accomplished!
- Find good, honest sources of locally grown food to supplement what we can grow here. Check. Accomplished!
- See if the community would come out for a Farmer’s Market event. Check. Accomplished!
- See if any of the more dedicated gardeners, like Pa Workman, could get back a bit on their investment of time and energy. Check. Accomplished!
- Have healthier, tastier food for our children in the program. Many of them might not get a well-balanced meal, especially in the summer. Check. Accomplished!
So maybe it wasn’t a bust after all. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that the brakes on the pickup are all fixed up. Seems that Jessie’s sisters wanted some of the bread that was left. So, Jessie’s brothers-in-law came and repaired the brake line in exchange for the rest of the bread. Pickup stops really well. Didn’t cost an arm and a leg–just some bread.
The 25th Anniversary Celebration is here August 2nd. Ya’ll come on over. There’ll be some really good zucchini bread–fresh and homemade.