Farmers markets a feast for the eyes and ears

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The calendars have turned to July, and our area farmers' markets are now all running full throttle. Each town's market a distinct gem unto itself, yet as a collective, our Southern Vermont network of markets is a beauty to behold.

It's not easy to get a farmers' market up and running, so I wholeheartedly value the variety of local markets for the myriad choices they add to our consumer landscape. All the factors that I deeply consider before ever pulling out my wallet — buy local, support the local economy, eat seasonally, know where food comes from and the farmer who grew it — lay eagerly in wait among the vendor stands.

The benefits of having fun within my community are there, too. Where else can I grocery shop while outside, nibbling on food samples while listening to music strummed from a talented musician's guitar? That's precisely the reason my family and I found ourselves at the Arlington Village Farmers' Market on a Friday evening.

The Arlington Village Farmers' Market opened last year on the grounds of the Arlington Inn at the junction of Vermont Routes 7A and 313 West. Its 2019 season runs from June 21 through September 6, from 4-7 p.m. When I visited, I was able to park easily, even though I could see a good crowd of people strolling about the marble sidewalk. What kind of wizardly powers enable both easy parking and strong crowds to happen simultaneously, I know not, but I applaud it.

The Arlington Inn complements the already vibrant market with its "Meet the Maker" series, which features local breweries and distilleries each week, as well as local, live music on the patio. I counted upward of 25 vendor stands as I made my way across the street and deep into local commerce.

With so many options, my goal was to try and stick to a garden/outdoor themed write-up when chatting with the vendors. But each stand was as inviting as the next, and I found sticking to the focus difficult.

How lucky I was to have such a problem. There were cheese curds and fermented foods, adorable handmade kid's clothing, and admirable handmade candles. I saw familiar to me names like "Nana Sandy's Specialty Foods" and "The Vermont Spatzle Company," and some new ones too like "Mama Lena's Sausage."

At one stand, gorgeously colored quilts hung like flags, and at another, a sign enticed my boys to try the vendor's homemade chocolate popsicles. Their chocolate mustached smiles flashed happily at me long after the treats were devoured.

I stopped to talk with Joann and Mike Robinson of Flower Brook Meadows. Their stand had colorful bouquets of flowers, vegetable starters, and microgreens for sale. I was curious about the microgreens, and the Robinsons were delightfully kind and knowledgeable in explaining their product.

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Microgreens are, well, baby plants. They aren't sprouts, which are seeds germinated in water, and they certainly aren't mature plants. Joann told me that microgreens are grown from seeds planted in soil or on growing mats and are harvested after the first leaves have developed. They are the smallest of the salad greens and packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and intensely fresh flavor.

Microgreens have a significant nutritional advantage over sprouts, especially when grown in ideal conditions. Flower Brook Meadows grows microgreens with hydroponics, on organic coconut fiber pads, so that their finished product has optimal amounts of health benefits. I left their stand with a pack of cilantro microgreens, and utterly enamored by what Joann and Mike have accomplished since moving here from Maryland only one and a half years ago.

My family paused at Harwood Homestead's stand, which featured an interactive nature loom out front. An engaging boy explained that we were encouraged to weave the available feathers and greens through it as in the end, it was to be a community work of art hung in his family's farm store.

My boys got to weaving while I chatted with Sarah Harwood, who runs Harwood Homestead along with her husband, Ashley Harwood. Just seconds into our conversation, I could sense the passion and love Sarah has for the farm. As I sampled the delicious dandelion jelly Sarah had made that week, she spoke not only of what the farm has to offer but how it strives to be a place of gathering and learning.

"People have a lot of information about farms, but kids can lack special connections to a farm," Sarah said. To that end, Harwood Homestead offers Farm Camps for kids through the summer and hosts a free "Kids on the Farm" series every other Saturday.

My last stop at the market was North Meadow Farm, where my youngest was already feasting on cheese samples. Indeed, they were all so tasty! I got to talking with the folks there too, which resulted not only in my purchase of spicy red pepper cheese curds, but also an invite to tour their farm in Manchester.

I most certainly will visit, because there's nothing better than having something to look forward to tomorrow when today ends.

And I'll be back to the Arlington Farmers' Market.

Tina Weikert is a frequent contributor to Southern Vermont Landscapes.


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