By Colleen Cusimano
A recent Sunday morning found me browsing our local Urbana Library Farmers’ Market with my kids in tow.
While many might think the market is closed for the season, Urbana’s market is held from April through mid-October. I love the flavor and freshness of fruits and vegetables that have been very recently harvested from farms in our region. Shopping at the Farmers’ Market and being able to speak to the farmers and vendors who provide the goods for sale adds a whole new dimension to enjoying the food on our table.
Many families have begun to make a conscious decision to eat food products with limited chemical production and intervention. Many environmentally-conscious consumers have begun to question how much we could benefit the earth by choosing to consume what is nearby rather than transporting food and goods on trucks, boats and planes. Our family supports those ideas and really enjoys purchasing locally produced foods while chatting with the people who have picked and packaged or made them.
Many of our local grocery stores offer locally grown produce, but if you aim to consume primarily locally grown, you will find a more limited selection there. In this region, we have four distinct growing seasons. For instance, our strawberries and tomatoes appear exclusively in late spring through early summer. Apples and squash are plentiful in the fall.
As a mom, I have enjoyed taking my three children to the Farmers’ Market, and watching them ask questions of the purveyors. They seem particularly drawn to the honey salesman from Allen’s Apiary – who also happens to be the bee-keeper who harvests the honey. He can intriguingly describe the bee colonies he tends and explain the distance they must be from one another to ensure they have adequate farm land to work – these bees do a lot of work. He can talk at length about the process of the honey-making and harvesting, as my children stare wide-eyed, wondering how anyone could choose a job spending so much time with bees.
My son’s primary experience with bees had been less than friendly. He vividly remembers being stung once in our yard and once at the local pool. He found it fascinating that bees have such an important job to do. Farms actually hire the bee keeper to maintain hives on their land. The bees pollinate (almost) all of the plants so that they can produce fruits and vegetables. No bees – no vegetables. Really makes it seem like the bees shouldn’t be lounging around at the pool!
Moving on through the market, the Buttercup Baking Company folks can tell you about the ingredients in the many breads, rolls and sweet offerings they sell. If you would like a specific type of bread or baked good, you can call or email them to order. You can arrange to purchase your special order at the market, or arrange to pick up your order some other time. Their pastries are flaky and light – we especially enjoy the cheese and onion croissants, and the doughs that are dense and a little sweet, perfect for sandwiches.
The market also has several vendors offering locally grown peaches, root vegetables, lettuce and kale. Full Cellar Farm from Jefferson also has chicken and pork available. In late summer/early fall, you can sign up for your Thanksgiving turkey. They are a limited product, though – sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
Although the late summer market season does close, many of the vendors at our local Farmers’ Market have products available all year. South Mountain Creamery offers farm-fresh dairy products to local families at the small retail store on the farm. If you time your visit right, the children can watch the calves at feeding time. South Mountain also offers home delivery. Catoctin Mountain Orchard in Thurmont and Scenic View Orchards in Sabillasville have a wide variety of apples, pumpkins, squash, gourds and many fresh-made pies and goodies at the orchards. Halloween season welcomes the festivities at numerous area pumpkin patches and farms, where you can get your pumpkins and a number of other seasonal offerings.
Personally, I feel very fortunate to live in Frederick County, where agriculture is such an integral part of our local community. We can appreciate the plentiful locally-produced food, and also raise our families with a clear view of where food comes from.
Editor’s Note: Colleen Cusimano lives in Ijamsville with her husband and three teenage children. She has been an active member of the community for more than 20 years. This summer, Cusimano was elected to the Frederick County Board of Education.