As a native Californian, there are few things I find more pleasurable than fresh, locally sourced produce. Just thinking about leafy, fresh-picked collard greens warms my soul; as far a social movements go, the Farm to Table movement is near and dear to my heart. Lucky for me, and other produce-lovers out there, Georgetown offers a weekly foray into the beauty of beans, greens, and everything in-between: the Glover Park/Burlieth Farmer’s Market.
Every Saturday from 9 to 1, the parking lot of Hardy Middle School transforms into a humble, 10-stand cornucopia of baked goods, fresh produce, and locally-sourced foods. No matter your taste, you can find exactly what you’re looking for at the Farmer’s Market. Fresh-baked quiche, breads, and pastries from Bonaparte Breads make for a perfect Saturday morning breakfast, which can be washed down with individually brewed, single-origin coffee from Cafe Los Sueños. Even meat-lovers can find solace with Eco-Friendly Foods’ and Midtrees Farm’s various cuts of pork, chicken, and beef.
Perhaps you’re more drawn to the bounty of the sea. In that case, Happy Hen’s Barnyard features crab-cakes, oysters, shrimp, and the occasional fresh-caught rockfish fillet. As the vendor’s name suggests, Happy Hen also sells fresh eggs; if you’re feeling adventurous, you can stray from the generic chicken’s egg and buy duck eggs instead. And if those fresh, sustainably sourced eggs are too “blah” by themselves, I dare you to top that duck-egg omelet with some fresh feta from Spriggs Delight Goat Milk Cheeses, or homemade pepper salsa from Spring Valley Farms. You can then round out the meal with a cookie or pie from Whisked! bakery (my personal favorite: their chocolate chip pretzel cookie). And of course, Kuhn Orchard, Spring Valley Farms, and Westmoreland Produce all feature the classic selection of apples, peaches, nectarines, root vegetables, and leafy greens. But if for some reason food isn’t your thing, you can buy handmade walnut-oil soaps from Walnut Organics, or a fresh bouquet of flowers from Kuhn Orchard.
Of course, the Farmer’s Market is never just about the produce on the table; more importantly, one can see the passion and joy that the vendors bring to their craft, and the friendliness they imbue in the market environment. I began my Saturday excursion by indulging in my love of fresh produce, with the hopes of navigating the array of colorful fall squash, peppers, zucchini and greens for a fresh vegetable that I could cook up with the advice of one of the vendors to guide my culinary excursion. I first picked up some carrots from Kuhn Orchards, and asked the vendor how he liked to cook his root veggies. “I’m not one for cooked carrots usually,” he said, “but my wife likes to sauteé them in some butter and brown sugar. That’s how I like them.” He then suggested I check out Spring Valley Farms’ new harvest of purple cauliflower, suggesting the colors would look beautiful together on a dinner plate.
I followed his advice, and bought a head of cauliflower from the people at Spring Valley– two young women who were manning the stand for their parents, the ones responsible for the farm itself. We chatted for a while about the seasonal produce; as we talked, they waved at familiar faces in the crowd and gave suggestions to passerby looking for the freshest products. The warm culture of camaraderie at both Kuhn Orchards and Spring Valley was enough to brighten anyone’s Saturday shopping trip.
Although the carrots and cauliflower were beautiful in their sharp colors, I decided to commemorate the beginning of fall with a foray into the world of squash. A daunting task for someone with no squash experience, I know, but it was impossible to resist the piles of gourds and pumpkins that had begun to pile up as vendors entered the fall harvest. For my final purchase, I picked out a beautiful (yet intimidating) acorn squash from Westmoreland Produce. When I asked the girl manning the scale for any advice she had for cooking, she told me she only manned the stand—the farm was her father’s, so she helped out on market days when he was busy with work. The woman ahead of me in line chimed in and gave me some great advice: cut the squash in half, drizzle it with olive oil, add some salt, pepper, or other spices, and simply roast it in the oven, cut side down, until the skin was tender. I thanked her and she smiled, continuing on with her shopping trip.
As I purchased my squash, I asked the girl at Westmoreland what she thought of the market scene and living on a farm. To my initial surprise, she shrugged indifferently; for her, it was just a part of the daily routine. While she loved the farmers market and the people she met, there was nothing particularly unique to her about living on a farm and helping out her dad every Saturday. My conversation with her made me realize what a wonderful experiential bridge the farmer’s market could be: lives that seem so foreign to some are lived day-to-day by others, and they all come together at the market. By reaching out and asking, one can better understand the experiences of a vendor in Maryland, a farmer in Virginia, or a neighbor down the street, and what can seem so ordinary to one can be extraordinary to the other. And with the friendly energy permeating the Harvey Middle School parking lot, it can be hard not to reach out and ask.
I will admit, I was too intimidated by my acorn squash to roast it that Saturday. The little guy sat on our butcher’s block table for a day—I could practically feel the squash staring me down, challenging me to roast it. So that Sunday, I cut the gourd in half, scraped out the seeds, and prepared it according to the instructions I had received. I also added some Italian seasoning, because I thought it would make my already fancy college cooking a bit more extravagant. (I also have the tendency to add Italian seasoning to things in hopes they will taste good and make me seem like a more competent cook. Pro tip: it usually works.)
Following the advice of the woman I met at the market, I plopped the squash halves face-down on a foil-lined baking sheet (Pro tip part two: easy clean-up), and roasted them in the oven at 400º for 40 minutes, until the outside of the squash was tender enough to be poked with a fork. The result was a warm, buttery, caramelized snack that was definitely a worthwhile yield from the beginnings of fall produce—a culinary invention I couldn’t have produced without the lovely community at the Glover Park Farmer’s Market.
I urge anyone who’s interested to browse the website for the farmer’s market. It’s an accessible way to get to know the vendors and their backstories, and learn where their food comes from. And even if you just go to buy an apple to get you through your Safeway shopping trip, you can rest easy knowing that the vendors put time and effort into bringing the best they can offer to the Georgetown community.
Photo: Erika Bullock/The Georgetown Voice