×

Of the Earth: Where do all the farm stands go?

  • That disappointing moment when you pass a closed farm stand, such as when Wes saw this sign at Bars Farm on Mill Village Road in Deerfield. The good news is winter farmers markets are rising in popularity, with some year-round outlets on the way. FOR THE RECORDER/WESELY BLIXT

  • BLIXT



For The Recorder
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ever wonder where farm stand folk go after Halloween? Is there a special farm stand winter haven in south Florida?

I thought about this in November when I stopped at the Bars Farm on Mill Village Road in Deerfield, hoping to nail down their recipe for roasted hot peppers with sharp cheddar. Days earlier, the place had been bustling, but now, there was just a lovely, lonely arrangement of gourds and pumpkins, and a sign that read “Closed for Season.”

There is a fertile archipelago of farm fresh retailers that runs along (or near) Routes 5 and 10 from Greenfield, eight miles south of the county line. Of those stands, only organic Atlas Farms near South Deerfield’s Main Street turnoff stays open.

While each stand has its own distinctive and valuable niche — its own terroir! — I often find myself at the Ciesluk Farm stand in Deerfield during corn season. The 120-acre farm sells up to 60,000 ears a day at the peak of the season, most of it to the wholesale market. I always pick up two ears — one for me and one for my dear wife, Sadie, who doesn’t eat corn.

Now, Nicole “Nikki” Ciesluk has announced that she, too, is headed south — as far south as she can go without winding up in Whately. Within weeks, she will be opening the Ciesluk Farm Store in the center of South Deerfield on the common. It’s a space that has been, at various times, Deerfield Market, Sugarloaf Market, Garden City Market, etc.

The difference is that Ciesluk will focus on year-round homegrown local fare, in the tradition of the Ciesluk Farm Stand, which will re-open as usual in the spring.

“We’re talking about a down-to-earth country market with local vegetables, baked goods, deli sandwiches, all available year-round,” said Ciesluk. “We’re all about buying local.”

Ciesluk Farm will continue to be known for its sweet corn, as it has been since the 1920s and as it was when it was run by Nikki’s father-in-law Frank Ciesluk, and much as it is likely to under the management of her son, also Frank. In 2000, the onetime roadside table with a yellow umbrella sprouted a full-service farm stand that seasonally sports a giant grinning ear of plywood corn to reassure passersby that, indeed, the corn is in once again. See Ciesluk’s corn recipe below.

There is a need, Ciesluk notes, for some new grocery options in South Deerfield, a need that has been highlighted by Cumberland Farms’ planned move out of the village center. Her move into South Deerfield, all with the collaboration of the Franklin County Community Development Corp., is part of an effort to become a resource for an even broader community.

The Cutting Board

HIP update: You may remember reading about the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) here last week. What you didn’t read is that response to the program since last April has far exceeded expectations. More than 200 farms have sold nearly $3 million in produce through HIP. About 34 percent of 35,400 families participating include children, and 50 percent include seniors. Now, it’s about time for the Legislature to authorize a further state match for the federal program. Organizers at the MA Food System Collaborative are hoping that folks will visit: https://mafoodsystem.org/projects/hip-orgs/ to find out how to get the word out.

Squash poll: The results are in. Barbara and Eric Goodchild at Barberic Farm in Shelburne weren’t sure how to proceed in pickling their bumper crop of butternuts — butternut ginger, spicy or rosemary — so they let the people decide ... the people at the Greenfield Winter Farmers Market that is. And the result? Ginger wins, narrowly, almost tied with spicy. “Rosemary was in third place, but not by much,” said Barb. The couple, who also sell popular Maple Pickled Beets, will continue as long as the butternuts stay hard. “As long as they don’t go soft, we can work with them,” she said, adding that the whole enterprise is “a little quirky.” And really tasty, we would add.

Sweet homegrown harmonies: Vegetables and fruit aren’t the only full-fledged products of local soils. For over 40 years, Pat and Tex LaMountain have been soothing and swinging folks in the valley and beyond, and their rich, rootsy harmonies have become the soundtrack for Greenfield’s farmers markets. They are so sweet and subtle you may not notice them right away, picking away amid the pickings. But don’t hesitate to stop and say “thanks” and check out their latest CD, “Rivers, Roads & Bridges.” The song “Tractor State of Mind” makes me smile. “Precious Love” makes me misty, as does “Slip Away,” written by Greenfield’s own Russ Thomas.

Corn on the Cob

Thanks Nikki Ciesluk for this recipe.

Suffer through next six months without corn. Ignore Florida and New Jersey corn. It’ll break your heart. When the big plywood ear of corn goes up at Ciesluk’s, it’s ready.

Instructions:

Place corn in cold water over high heat. When it boils, it’s ready; (or)

Place corn in boiling water. After five minutes, it’s ready; (or)

Soak corn, still in husk, in cold water. Place on hot grill. When it’s ready, its ready.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at: wesleyblixt@me.com