Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tons of Blackberries

I've mentioned our blackberries in prior posts. But folks that just speak to us at the farmers market have been curious about them. So I snapped a few photos of our blackberry plants. The early rain this year has been remarkable for them and now in the drier hotter weather they are ripening quickly. We have one variety, Illini, that is well adapted to this area but it is thorny. They have been ripening for a week or so. Our main variety is Chester which is shown in the photo, a few berries are ripening now, but as you can see the real avalanche is yet to come. All the red berries will ripen over the next week or two. Chester has a reputation for being more tart or not as sweet as other varieties, but the secret is that it needs to stay on the plant a day or two after it darkens, and looks ripe, to enhance the flavor and sweetness. If you come out for PYO, or to visit the farm, this is what you'll see. If you're at the market, this is where they come from. Lastly, they are not sprayed with anything toxic. We'll lose a few berries to Japanese beetles but that's OK. Fortunately for me blackberry jam is my favorite.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Peak Season and Market

We'll have a great selection at tomorrow's farmers market. Its truly peak season, its all we can do to pick just a portion of what's ready in the field. I mentioned PYO blackberries before as its peak season. We'll also do PYO tomatoes and peppers at this time, $15/half bushel or $25/bushel. We have some Roma tomatoes which are available PYO if you are into making your own sauces, $20/half bushel. Cherokee Purple and Brandywine heirloom tomatoes are available. Heirlooms are 2 for $1 at the market, other varieties are 3 for $1. In fact we'll be doing mix and match 3 of anything for $1. Let us know if you'd like a CSA vegetable box, $20 per half bushel box for a nice variety. The prior boxes we did were well received. Even though they are vegetable boxes, we've been able to add berries and some fruit to the boxes also. One of the most enjoyable varieties has been the Sun Gold tomatoes. This is an very sweet heirloom salad tomato, just $3/pint As always, you wish you'd planted more of what grows well and sells well. We'll be doing Sun Gold every year from now on. Contrast this with Early Goliath tomato which was neither early or large. No more of those for our farm. We'll have 30-40 pints of Sun Gold available tomorrow. To answer a few other inquiries, salad mix is done until Fall and chicken is indeed still available. See you soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blackberries - The Time is Now

Hello everyone. Blackberry peak season is right now and for the next 2 weeks. I know we've had dozens of calls about them. Sorry but there's just not time for us to sit and return the calls. That's what this blog is for. To push out this info to your email address when you are a blog subscriber. Or to make this info available, if you choose to instead go and read the blog on your own. Also, please forward this blog post to anyone else with a possible interest. Long story short is that Ruth and I could pick blackberries all day every day for the next 2 weeks and probably still not get them all picked. We were away for a few days, plus we had almost 2 inches of rain total so they are just going crazy. Some varieties such as Illini are at peak now, and others, such as Chester, will be peaking next week. So if you want advance orders of blackberry pints to be brought to the market, just let us know. We pack them in clear plastic pints priced at $4/pint. If you want to come and do a PYO, you'll save 50%. Bring your own containers although we do have gallon pails you can use for picking. For ex, a gallon bought as packed pints would cost $32, PYO the cost is half, $16 per gallon, however you pack them. If you order a CSA vegetable box this week, you'll get a pint also. So if you're still dreaming of blackberry pie, jam, or cobbler, this next 2 weeks is your window of opportunity for this summer's harvest.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gonna Be Hot - Ripe Tomatoes and Blackberries

Hi everyone,
Looks like high summer has settled in the past few days. Its supposed to be 97 today! And picking in the sun I can assure you is much hotter. But the good news is that ripe red tomatoes are finally here. The farmers market will be swarmed. Great photo in the Hampshire Review this week of the nice crowd at the market. Please come early for the best selection. They are at least two weeks behind last year, but they are indeed finally here. The new Sun Gold salad tomatoes are even better than we expected. They go very fast. Its been interesting and fun.
I think every person that sampled a Sun Gold at the market immediately bought a pint. Fun to see the smiles, comments and head shakes they bring. Even one fist pumping in the air if you can imagine that. We've been picking blackberries daily. So from now and for the next few weeks it will be high season for the blackberries. So if blackberry cobbler, pie, jam or blackberry anything is on your wish list, now is definitely the time. Red raspberries will follow the blackberries. Plan accordingly. Sweet peppers are nice size now. We'll have at least a full crate of those. For those making chutney and salsa and the like, we have green heirlooms which work well for that. Last weekend was a new phenomenon for the Romney market. There were actually people waiting in the parking lot when we pulled in at 8:30 AM. The market doesn't even open until 9 AM. Pretty amazing. Its encouraging and motivational to meet these folks that "get it". For ex, we sell our summer squash for 3 for $1, any size. They are $1.29 per pound at the grocery store. So there is the value, you get fresher and at least 1/2 price at the farmers market versus older, dried out and more expensive at the grocery store. By cutting out the shipping, handling fuel, delays, storage, etc. we can pass on the savings to everyone at the farmers market. I field lots of emails and inquiries all week from folks. Please feel free to introduce yourselves to us so we can put names with faces. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Simple Dollar Blog Post

Very informative blog post from The Simple Dollar. See You can subscribe to their RSS feed or with your email address.

The Simple Dollar

Ten Ways to Find Bargains on Fresh Food

Posted: 16 Jul 2008 03:00 PM CDT

tomato pictureI’m always on the hunt for fresh food, grown locally and preferably grown organically and with sustainable practices. Not only are such items healthier, they’re also almost always much more flavorful, too. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried a salad made up of greens that were cut less than an hour before.

The only problem with this approach to eating is that it’s often perceived as very expensive. If you browse through the food options at your local mega grocery, you’ll usually find that healthy options, like organic fruits and vegetables, free range chickens and eggs, grass-fed beef, organic milk, and so on are usually substantially more expensive than the regular versions of the products. For a family on a budget, that’s a hard one to justify - is someone trying really hard to get by going to spend an extra two dollars a pound for organic carrots versus regular carrots? How about an extra two dollars a gallon for organic milk? It’s not something that fits well into the average budget.

The secret, though, is that fresh and healthy food is often just as cheap as the regular stuff - if you bother to do a little bit of looking around. Over the years, I’ve tried all sorts of methods for getting fresher and more healthy food on our table without exploding our food budget. Here are ten tactics that work.

1. Know what’s actually available to you.
One of the first challenges to overcome is knowing what’s available to you in your area. It’s easy to find a supermarket, but supermarkets are rarely where you’ll find the good deals on fresh, local produce. Here are a couple of tools to use.

The 100 Mile Diet Map identifies original sources for fruit, vegetable, dairy, and meat in your area that originate from within 100 miles of your zip code. In other words, it’s a great way to find truly fresh locally grown stuff. finds all sorts of retail sources for locally grown foods all around you.

2. Be adventurous in your food choices.
While it’s easy to stick with the foods you know, doing that quite often results in paying more because you’re avoiding options that are both cheap and quite interesting. Instead of just getting the usual thing, take a look at some of the more unusual foods available to you, ones that are outside your normal diet. One great way to kickstart this is by finding out what items are actually in season at the moment and basing some of your fresh food shopping on that.

If you have an opportunity to try a new fruit or vegetable or other fresh food at a very inexpensive price, don’t skip it because you’re unfamiliar with it. Instead, pick some up, go home, flip open a cookbook, and try something new - you’ll almost always be glad you did, plus you will have saved some money. I used to avoid okra, for example, but once I tried it in a dish with red beans, rice, and andouille sausage, I was a convert.

3. Shop for produce regularly at farmers markets.
Jefferson County Farmers Market by acnatta on Flickr!Your first place to shop for fresh produce shouldn’t be the produce section at your local grocery store - instead, you should start at the farmers market. The items on sale here are fresh - often just pulled from the ground in the last twenty four hours and thus still quite nutrient rich. Even better, the prices are usually a bit lower than what you’ll find for the preserved and chilled stuff you’ll find in the produce section at your local grocery store.

The challenging part of a farmers market, though, is that you’ll never be quite sure what you’ll come home with. The selection is completely dependent on what’s in season, and thus you’ll not find preserved and shipped out of season items there. Thus, it’s much more difficult to make a shopping list for a farmer’s market. Instead, when you’re in need of produce, find out when your local farmers market is open and hit that before stopping at the grocery store. Then, use what you buy there as the backbone for your meal planning.

Here are some useful tactics for tackling a farmers market for the first time.

4. Use farmer’s markets for information, too.
While you can score a lot of tasty, fresh produce at reasonable prices from farmers markets, perhaps the best value at a farmers market is free - the information. Ask lots of questions, from how you might prepare a particular item to recipe suggestions to tips on where you might find a specific item locally.

Almost everyone I’ve interacted with at a farmers market is glad to help with all of these questions. Why? First of all, they love this stuff. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be at a farmers market. Second, they know that providing you with good information will likely make you a happy customer and keep you coming back.

So ask. Ask lots of questions. Learn more about the food you’re eating and where to get more of it.

5. Join a CSA.
A CSA (short for community supported agriculture) is a system in which people in a community become shareholders in a farm, and that share earns dividends in the form of produce. Where I live, I’ve been on a waiting list for the local CSA for almost a year, and I can’t wait to sign up.

I stopped by to check out how their system works. Basically, you buy a “share” early in the year that costs around $300. This “share” earns you a giant box of produce every week throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall - twenty weeks in all (making the cost effectively $15 a box). The content of the box is basically an equal share of whatever happens to be in season at the moment - early on, it’s heavy on the lettuce, asparagus, and other greens; by mid-summer, there’s lots of tomatoes and corn; later on, you might see squashes and the like. For the volume of food you get, it’s a tremendous deal, especially considering it’s fresh and local.

You can use the tools in tip #1 to find your own local CSA. You might also find that some of the people at farmers markets also run CSAs, so they may be able to give you a lead, too.

6. Start your own garden.
A garden is a tremendous hobby to undertake. It requires a significant time investment and some initial cost as well (basic equipment and seeds). However, few things beat the ability to walk out in your yard and pull a handful of tomatoes straight from the vine to use with that night’s dinner. Not only is it impossible to eat anything fresher, the cost involved is quite low.

It’s even lower when you add in the concept of gardening as a hobby when compared to other hobbies. An hour spent in the garden, if you enjoy it, is an hour well spent, never mind the fact that it provides some financial and nutritional benefit over the long haul.

7. Share a garden with someone else.
If you don’t have adequate space for your own garden, consider an arrangement where someone else has space for a garden and you share resources and effort. For example, you might place a garden in a friend’s yard, then spend some time each Saturday or Sunday afternoon over there getting it in shape with your friend, then splitting the fresh produce.

Not only does this provide you fresh food, it also transforms gardening into a social activity that you can share with a friend. Even a medium sized garden can provide a good amount of fresh produce for two families, and with a partner you can spread out the costs of the materials and the effort, too. A win-win all around, and it gets tasty fresh produce on your table.

8. Establish a bartering relationship with someone who gardens extensively.
Another option, particularly if you have marketable skills, is to swap those skills with a friend that is an avid gardener or produces some other sort of fresh food. For example, if your friend needs help with some electrical work, offer to give him an afternoon’s worth of help in exchange for a few pounds of tomatoes in August.

Again, this turns fresh produce into a win-win. Not only is it free for you now, you’ve also got an afternoon at a friend’s house, helping him or her out. Good conversation, an afternoon well spent, and some fresh food later on? You can’t beat it.

9. Use your grocery flyer to identify healthy sales, then plan around them.
If you don’t have many options available to you for getting such fresh produce, you can still rely on your local grocery store for options. Know what items are actually in season at the moment and use that knowledge in tandem with the local grocery store flyers. When you see in-season items on sale, jump on board - such sales are usually based on highly local purchases, plus they’re cheap.

Since you have the advantage of knowing the fresh produce you’ll have, use it as the backbone for your meal and shopping planning. Find recipes that use these fresh items, then construct a shopping list out of what you need for these recipes.

10. Join your local Slow Food convivum.
A final tip: be social in your dedication to fresh, local food. Find others that share your interests, so you can share your ideas about where to find inexpensive, fresh, local foods. The most effective way to do this is to get involved with Slow Food.

Slow Food is an organization dedicated to “slow food” - the opposite of fast food. They organize into local chapters (called conviva), where people meet and share ideas about eating locally and often share information online, too. These groups are treasure troves of information on inexpensive, local, fresh produce and well worth looking into if you’re interested in the topic.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Update - For July 12 Farmers Market

Hello everyone, last week was sort of a blur, and we had the July 4th holiday, so I didn't get to a blog post. It just got past me. That didn't seem to matter as we had a very busy market on July 5th. Lots of visitors to Romney, as well as travelers passing through town. I'm posting early this week as I'll be away for a few days. I'll be attending a beekeeping meeting at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. I've never been there but the MU web site shows its a very nice campus. I really liked the film "We Are Marshall" and they are even showing it on campus for all the folks that are traveling to the meeting. For this Saturday, we should have our first ripe tomatoes. Our normal "Early Girl" tomatoes were not early, the weather was just too cool I guess. We'll have some Sun Gold tomatoes also. These are gold salad tomatoes. No one who has these would go back to a red cherry tomato. We may have blueberries from our friend Richard Cutter, from Frostburg, MD. They were a big hit last year. Our raspberries and blackberries are still a few days away ; although we're picking just small quantities now. Sweet peppers and summer squash will be available also. Long story short is things are really starting to peak. The month of July is peak market season. This is a good time to order a CSA box if you're interested in a mixed 20-25 pound box of produce. We'll have eggs and we can bring your advance chicken orders to market also. We harvested more honey so we'll have plenty. Many folks have found us via Also check out which helps you with what to do with all your farmers market purchases. So we're looking forward to another very busy market day on Saturday. Hope to see you there.

Friday, July 04, 2008

I found some good info at about farmers markets. See Below. Deborah Madison's monthly column is well worth subscribing to. I'm in the process of updating some info at their site about the Romney Market.

Other content on Culinate related to farmers markets includes:
  • A monthly column by Deborah Madison, the award-winning chef and author of Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers Markets
  • Recipes from our kitchens, our contributors, and featured cookbooks � using ingredients readily available at most farmers markets
  • Articles on shopping at farmers markets on a budget, by Matthew Card; what questions to ask farmers at the market, by Culinate Managing Editor Caroline Cummins; and an interview with CSA (community-supported agriculture) pioneer Elizabeth Henderson

From the WV First Lady - Nice Article

From: []
Sent: Thursday, July 03, 2008 11:38 AM
Subject: From the First Lady's Desk: July is West Virginia green month

July 3, 2008

From the First Lady’s Desk:
A monthly message by First Lady Gayle C. Manchin

Contact: Lara Ramsburg , 304-558-2000

West Virginia has definitely gone green. There is not a nook or cranny anywhere in this state that is not lush and green from trees, foliage, ferns and other beautiful plants that call West Virginia home. Joe and I came across the scenic highway from Marlinton to Richwood recently, and the vista of vibrant green against the blue sky was absolutely breathtaking.
With all the green around us at every turn, it is a great time to think of ways individually, as a community and as a state that we can be better stewards of our beautiful landscape and environment. One of the biggest win-wins for everyone is buying fresh, locally grown produce in our own neighborhoods. The vegetables and fruits grown in West Virginia taste better and are better for us than those shipped in from other states and countries. I was amazed at the variety of vegetables and fruits grown regularly and organically across our state. In addition, many chefs and restaurants are promoting buying West Virginia products, and they have found poultry, beef, fresh fish like mountain trout and artic char, eggs and dairy products that can accommodate all their needs and recipes.

Within our own homes and yards, we can do many little things everyday that begin to add up when you calculate over weeks and months from one house to an entire community. Adding insulation and sealing cracks around doors and windows can reduce both heating and cooling bills, and is also a great start in practicing energy conservation.

In that same vein, just remembering to turn off lights, televisions and unused electrical appliances are among little efforts that pay off. The newest energy-efficient light bulbs cost more initially, but will pay for themselves in savings in a big way over their lifetime. Also, using solar or LED (light-emitting diode) lighting around your lawn is a big energy saver. The LED lights are very bright and use very little power and will last five to 10 times as long as standard outdoor lights!

It is also interesting to note that it is not only professional chefs, but everyday “mom-and-pop chefs” that are taking a little corner of the yard for an herb garden and a few favorite items like tomatoes and peppers. Again, a few steps to the garden, a fresh salad and a little pruning on the side are other win-wins for a healthier lifestyle and greener environment.

It is worth noting that when doing seasonal planting, plants, flowers and grasses that are native to our region are the most attuned to our soil, climate and water particularities. Therefore, they will thrive with less care than tropical and other imported varieties and, let’s face it, they are gorgeous! While water is not necessarily scarce in West Virginia, a barrel sitting in an area of the yard to collect rain water is another way to conserve and cut down on our water bills and is handy for watering our new gardens.

Enjoy the green of West Virginia, whether it is in your own backyard or in one of our beautiful state parks or national forests. If we each do our part in a small way, it will make a big difference in the conservation of our land and energy.