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Experiencing The Artisan Culture Of Roadside Farm Stands in America

“We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.” ~Wendell Berry



Farm Stands


Introduction

Families enjoy sunkissed stone fruit, heirloom tomatoes, corn, squash, and the almighty pumpkin! Berries are always on the menu at roadside farm stands, and we love to grab a bunch to snack on for the road. Beef jerky lines the wall, and other fermented goodies are canned and ready to go—each product has distinct flavor, flora, and fauna. Good farm stands always have a kitchen conspicuously placed in the back center of the building. The ovens are going, and the blueberry loaf is cooling on the counter's ledge. The smell of berry pies is in the air, and the decadent aroma of fresh fruit and baked goods gets our senses going. The urge to buy every berry and stone fruit becomes challenging. How much can I fit into that little red handbasket? I can’t stop browsing and loading that hand cart to its limit. I never have a plan for buying food from a local farm stand. This makes it a fantastic experiment, throwing away the rules of menu planning and going with what is available today.



Farm Warehouse

Farm Stand Culture

A farm stand is where farmers pridefully share their harvest, offering freshly picked produce for the taking. Those summer trips take us to places less traveled, especially roadside farms and U-Pick berries. They provide locally-grown produce to passersby, restaurants, and the community. Even as growers, we used to work with other craftspeople through The Grange. Buying large quantities of produce to process, can, and store for the winter months. We would buy the vegetables where our bounty may have fallen short. For example, we purchased 100 lbs of carrots or potatoes to supplement that root cellar. Or, Rutabagas for the cold weather days when making soups and stews require a thickening agent.


Farm stands offer excellent products, selling the sweetness of summer. Not to mention those ready-to-bake strawberry-rhubarb pies in the flash freezer. If we are lucky, checkout has an espresso stand or coffee bar to grab and enjoy a variety of sweet baked goods and a solid French Roast brew. Sometimes, we often see a place designated off to the side for us to sit and enjoy our take. Most of the time, we are adjacent to the orchard or planting field. It makes us feel nostalgic; to see where the origin of our recent haul originated.



Lettuce Field

Making Connections With A Farm & Its Craftsperson

Farmers are proud of their craft and make it known by working alongside their employees. They enjoy being face-to-face with the customers, taking holiday pie orders, and stocking cider in the coolers. While all the day-to-day interaction is humming like a well-oiled machine, community chefs and restauranteurs are walking the fields to sample pre-harvested produce. They are buying blocks at a contracted rate, usually working on a collaboration of sorts. Farmers are craftspeople seeking meaningful business relationships with the community to share their harvest.


Chefs love challenging and pushing limits, bringing those Heirloom plants to fruition for their customers. They work direct with the farmer on menu creation, selecting the best seeds for sweet and savory squash blossoms and weaving bush berries and fresh herb gardens throughout. The chef and farmer walk side by side while carefully selecting recipe items for the upcoming season. They even build demonstration fields and incubators to see which products produce the best quality for chefs.


Demonstration fields allow the chef and farmer to grow varietals in smaller quantities to determine differentiation, flavor profiles, and texture. The farmer and chef build insulated greenhouses for the winter, heating them and testing seedlings for that following menu change. Snow may be falling, but they use natural sunlight, hydroponic lights to supplement, and soils to grow the best. Beautiful and delicate Japanese Winter - Hokkori Squash grows in gardens along the side rails. This squash goes well in green curry stewed with coconut milk and stock. Add some bamboo shoots and new yellow potatoes for flavor depth.


At the end of the windrow lie the herb gardens, offering aromatics throughout the greenhouse. Thai, Purple, and Lemon Basil line the rows next to the Bok Choy. Purple Glazer Hard Neck Garlic grows like an onion, planted in rows - with scents wafting, making your mouth water for Beef with ginger and garlic over Jasmine rice. With each planting cycle, the craftsperson and chef build the flavor profiles - teaming up for culinary success.


Next time you jump in your car, drive through small-town America, open your window as you approach the local farm stand, and check for the aromatics in the breeze. As you approach the farm stand, you will find a baker folding those delicious flavors into a lemon basil and blueberry loaf cake—or heirloom tomato butter to the top of that zucchini pie for dinner. Farm stands are part of American culture and food heritage.



Chef




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