Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fall Farmers' Market Transitions

Winter transition at the University District farmers' maket is bittersweet. Fall pumpkins, yellow onions, apples, pears and vibrant hearty greens decorate market tables. Bright red and gold leaves bring smiles, and cool winds feel refreshing. Crackling leaves under my feet is seasonal music for my soul. It's fun to walk around the market and see pumpkin carvings.

Some farm booths like Rockridge Orchards expand in November. Wade brings in more produce. First thing in the morning he tempts me with a pear or apple slice or an arugula leaf. I'm crazy about the spicy arugula and peppery Osaka mustard greens. I'm growing some in my own yard this year, but I didn't plant nearly enough for the huge fresh salads we like every day, and slugs started eating it early on, but that's another story.

Other farm booths are packing up for the season. Halloween was JoanE McIntyre's last day. Rent's Due Ranch is a favorite stop for spring plant starts to fall vegetables. JoanE handed me a fortune cookie. She was dressed like a fortune teller, with her hair all wrapped in a red scarf, sparkles on her sweater and shiny beads around her neck.

This is Patty saying goodbye to JoanE at the market.

Romanesco calls out to me at Willie Green's Organic Farm. Jeff Miller is excited about the restaurant he's planning on opening at Willie Green's. His chef background shines through when he tells us the best way to cook Romanesco. Jeff doles out plenty of cooking inspiration with his produce. Jeff started this winter market before the Farmers' Market Alliance took it over a few years ago. I liked the market a lot when it was small and we could park right in the lot and bring our dogs if we wanted. The casual slow pace gave the market a small town feel, if only for a few months in winter. Now it's more formal and the no dog rule applies.

On rainy days lakes seem to form in the uneven lot. A person should wear boots, but I don't so my feet often get wet and cold. Also, granny baskets and wagons come in handy because you can't set your bags down or everything is soaking wet.

The best part of winter markets for me is that people take more time to visit, you can get to know farmers, and everyone loads up on the best the season has to offer.

When my main farmers' leave the market for the season, I frequent other farm booths. "You're a loyal customer," Wade said to me last week, when I'd whined about market squeezing more farm booths in to sell, some longtime farmers don't sell near the amount that they did last year. And it's not just the lousy economy. I'd never really thought about farmer loyalty much, but I guess he's right.

This Saturday is Grouse Mountain's last day. These apples from Liz and Michael at Grouse Mountain Farm in Chelan are some of my favorites.

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