April 8, 2020

Have You Hugged Your Farmer Today?

The goods from the Hampden Farmers Market made up a salad for dinner.

Janine Pineo Photo | The goods from the Hampden Farmers Market made up a salad for dinner.

Note to Readers: Puttering Around is a new feature on Garden Maine. It is the place where Janine waxes on about things when the mood strikes.

• By Janine Pineo •

The rain did not deter me from my appointed rounds Friday.

I wouldn’t let it.

My day started with breakfast with a friend so we could catch up after a few months’ absence. Then I zipped to the bank before heading over to my friend Melissa’s yarn shop, Spin A Yarn, in Brewer because I realized I needed to make a gift for a little person who hasn’t quite arrived yet.

With the pattern chosen and the yarn selected, I waxed on about my next destination for that afternoon, the Hampden Farmers Market.

Who knew a person could be so excited to be heading to a farmers market?

I was.

The Hampden market started up last year at this time and did business on Friday afternoons. I would head over, before I went to work my shift at my former job, to stock up on everything from vegetables to meat to cheese to baked goods.

I had no idea I would miss it so much during the winter.

Let me dissect that last sentence: While I missed the goodies I could buy, I have to say I missed the people even more.

I got to know a number of the farmers and vendors who came last year. They were an easy-going group and I looked forward to a weekly chat. As we compared everything from rainfall reports to bear sightings, I would peruse the goods, fill my bag for the week and wish them all a good weekend.

All winter I missed that.

When I saw the Facebook post last week from the Hampden Farmers Market saying this Friday was The Day, I grinned. And knew exactly where I was going to be on Friday afternoon.

As I got closer to the market in the parking lot of the old Hampden Academy, the rain picked up. I did not care. I had a hat and jacket if needed. I also had my grocery bag and money in my pocket. All was right in my world.

When I got out of my car, the first person to spot me was Doug from Winterport Winery, who bakes the most incredible bread I have ever eaten. He stepped around the table toward me, saying something like, “There she is,” and I said, “Can I give you a hug?” He grinned and we hugged.

I told him how happy I was he was back, to which he said he was happy I was back. My favorite bread was there – the roasted red pepper and artichoke – along with melt-in-your-mouth scones, crusty baguettes and a new offering of croissants: plain, almond and chocolate.

I then got distracted by Lauri from Boyd Brook Farming in Frankfort; she raises Herefords and sells the nicest beef you will ever taste. I grinned and asked if I could give her a hug. We hugged. And then talked and talked.

Meanwhile, a piglet wandered about at our feet. The wee black beauty, as I soon found out, was an orphan. She was living in luxury in the house, was house-trained and quite, quite spoiled. Quite. (If you would like to see this spoiled piglet, click here.)

I got my packages of ground beef – it is nothing like the ground beef you have ever gotten at the supermarket – and then went back to Doug and got bread, scones and croissants before stopping to hug Michelle from White’s Farm in Winterport (also home to the wee piglet). The wonderful products from Smith’s Log Smokehouse were on display, along with garden goodies, including pea shoots, which I adore.

Michelle and I caught up on events since last we met. Then I smelled the new soaps she is making under the lovely name of SoulShine Soap Co. (I got lemongrass), I sampled one of the summer sausage flavors (think cumin) and I talked husk cherries with one of the farmers whose name I do not yet know. On the husk cherry front, we decided we liked them really well in muffins, if we don’t eat them all fresh first. (Here is Garden Maine’s muffin recipe for it.)

A dinner-plate size leaf of spinach from Parker Family Farm

Janine Pineo Photo | A dinner-plate size leaf of spinach from Parker Family Farm

Next stop was with Ryan of Parker Family Farm in Newport. He missed a hug because he was busy with a string of customers, so I packed a bag with spinach (look at the size of that leaf!), got a bunch of my favorite spring turnips and a lovely head of pak choi.

With more customers behind me for Ryan, I went to one of the new farmers, Kenona Farm of Osborn, and spoke with Ken and Nonie. They are all about their goats and making soap and cheese. I sampled the Dulse goat cheese and asked how that flavor came about. Ken was happy to explain that it was sparked by a visit to a restaurant where dulse was available to sprinkle on the food. He decided it would make a good flavor for the cheese.

He was right.

I welcomed them to the market and found out that Ken is the go-to guy for the Brewer Farmers Market, where several of the Hampden folks go. Kenona also is at the Hermon Farmers Market.

In the back of my mind, it struck me yet again how hard these folks work. Farming is a 24/7 job. And not only are they doing all the work on the farm, they gather up their wares, travel to a town, set up a tent, put the goods on display and then stand there for several hours selling their work.

When it is done, they pack everything up – including their tent – and head back to the farm to take care of the chores and do it all over again the next day.

I sat down tonight to eat my salad with its spinach, turnips, honey-and-orange-peel sausage and pea shoots, and I thought about these dear folks who did this work to put this food on my table. I thought about how happy they all were to see me and the hour I spent catching up with them.

It is why I hugged my farmers today.