Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oakmont Farmers Market Update (August 2009)

Lore has it that year three is the make or break season for farmers markets, the year in which enthusiasm begins to wane or, conversely, the market reaches critical mass. My “local” – the Oakmont Farmers Market – is now in its third year and all signs look good. It’s not that attendance levels have expanded exponentially; they haven’t. Rather, attendance and business levels are consistently steady and robust and have been throughout the season, not just at the beginning of the market year when excitement for the “new” is always at its peak. In spite of the rough state of the economy, more and more people seem to have regularly committed to the little extra effort it takes to support their local farmers. And why not? There’s a great pay-off: fantastically fresh food, a diversity of seasonal fruit and vegetables that goes well beyond what you’ll find at the supermarket, supporting the economy of your own community, and a mighty small carbon footprint to boot.

The market’s gone officially non-profit this year, having filed for 501c3 status in the preseason. I’m a member of the all-volunteer Board of Directors for the market, so look at this post as a blatant shill if you will. But I shop at the market every week and just realized that I haven’t shared any photos or market news since last year. Here are some shots and a little info from yesterday’s market session.

Orchard fruit season is in full swing at North Star Orchard. Their seemingly endless varieties of plums have been fantastic the last few weeks, peaches are hitting full stride, and early season apples and pears have just entered the rotation.

Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm brings her local cows’ milk cheeses to the market only once a month, as she rotates through a single vendor space along with two other producers. In addition to her staples, this week she was selling wedges of her once-a-year batch of Matilda’s Summer Tomme. Sue also brought a disc of her first run at making a washed-rind cheese. She’s calling it Red Cat (it’s based on the same recipe as her top selling cheese, Fat Cat) and the sample I tasted showed great promise. Right now, it’s being washed with a simple brine solution but Sue is talking with Bill Covaleski, co-founder of and master brewer at Victory Brewing Company, about going with a Victory beer wash. Now that sounds really promising…. Having tasted Sue’s cheese (and Bill’s beers), I’d say Victory Prima Pils should be just about perfect.

Just a few of the gorgeous, delicious varieties of tomatoes that the folks from Lime Valley Mill Farm (certified organic) bring to the market each week.

Sweet, bell and frying peppers, grown and harvested by Fruitwood Orchards Honey Farm in Monroeville, NJ.

Restaurateur Michael Hawthorne, chef and proprietor of Kaya’s Fusion Cuisine (it’s BYOB) in Havertown, PA, buys much of the produce he uses each week right here at the market. It may not be the most cost-effective approach for his bottom line but it’s a fantastic demonstration of his commitment to supporting both local agriculture and business in his own community.


bill said...

is birchrun hills the same people that sell veal at headhouse square? if so, do they bring to your market?
i've had the brisket and the tenderloin and both were excellent.

David McDuff said...

@Bill Birchrun Hills Farm specializes in cows' milk cheese. They do sell eggs (chx) at some of their markets but not at Oakmont, as there's another vendor there (Lindenhof Farms) for whom eggs are a core product. I'm not aware of Birchrun selling meat; maybe you're thinking of Natural Meadows Farm?

bill said...

no, there is a birchrun something or other that sells cheese and veal at headhouse. their cheese used to be, or still is, sold at talulah's. the veal is excellent.
maybe it's birchrunville farms.

David McDuff said...

@Bill, that sounds like Birchrun Hills for sure. Sue sells both Fat Cat and Birchrun Blue to Aimee and the cheese crew at Talula's Table. The veal must be another item that Sue's not able to bring to Oakmont because of potential overlap with other vendors. Or maybe she just doesn't have enough to bring. I'll have to ask her about it next time I see her. (And I'm obviously overdue for a little shopping at the Headhouse Market....)

David McDuff said...

Coming back to wrap up the slightly unanswered question(s)....

Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm was back at the OFM today and confirmed that they do indeed raise and produce veal at the farm. Her son's been taking care of that end of the work and this is the second year they've been offering the meat for sale. As of now, it's available at the Headhouse Market and the Phoenixville Market (maybe West Chester as well), and it's on the menus seasonally at Talula's Table, Alba (in Malvern) and Southwark.

Sue confirmed my hypothesis that she's not able to bring veal to the OFM because of competition restrictions. No one else there sells veal but there is a beef farmer (on top of buffalo and poultry/pork/lamb). It seems that a fourth vendor with meat would be too much.

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