We are spoiled in Vermont during the summer growing season with an abundance of gorgeous produce to be had in local Saturday farmers’ markets and elsewhere. (I am okay with being spoiled, or spoilt as a Southern friend likes to say; the flip side of that is Vermont winter.) I have observed before that the farmers’ markets here are a bit different than the ones I frequented in the South–the food is maybe a little fresher, more abundant, and the selection of plant species is better. I think this is owing in large part to Vermont’s agrarian economy, and also the strength of its dairy industry.
The other local outlet for all that produce is the farmstand. When I think of this the way I did in the South, I imagine a guy selling a couple of items off the back of his pickup (or crudely constructed lean-to, if we are being generous) on the side of a suburban highway. The produce–peaches, watermelon, strawberries, et al.–can be amazing. But his farm is usually somewhere far away.
Here the farmstand is more of an institution that is built (literally) right on the farm, and significantly, most of the food on its shelves is grown right there. Once in a while I find myself driving past this one, which I love and patronize when I can.
Lately I have been reading Michael Pollan’s writing about food, about how disconnected we have come from the farm, how processing has had an impact on American obesity, and about moderation. I hope to write more about this in the near future. One thing is certain about buying from local farms (which Mr. Pollan advocates): it is expensive. Being on a tight budget demands balancing quality with frugality. This can be a huge challenge. I find myself always looking for new ways to live small, but well. I think Handsome Chef Boyfriend and I do a fair-to-middlin’ job of this, as we say down South.
Yesterday we visited the Clearbrook Farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont. We found the first peaches of the season (imported from Georgia, not yet ripe enough to eat), along with some beautiful corn on the cob, tomatoes, and lettuce, which formed the bulk of our dinner last night. I did not do the math, so I don’t know exactly how the cost of our beautiful summer dinner would stack up against something made with ingredients purchased exclusively from the supermarket (but far less than dinner out, to be sure). And what we ate was supplemented by ingredients HCB had on hand already. I still like the idea of shopping for a meal, buying local, eating well, and feeling good. Much more to come.