Of the Earth: Talent, goods abound at Greenfield farmers markets

  • Caro Roszell and Meryl LaTronica of Just Roots operate a booth at Saturday’s Greenfield Winter Farmers Market. For the Recorder/Wesley Blixt

  • Harper Keehn of New Haven, Conn., was new to the Greenfield Winter Farmers Market on Saturday, with his grinding wheels and whetstones. For the Recorder/Wesley Blixt


For the Recorder
Published: 3/5/2019 3:07:20 PM

I thought there might be a touch of spring in the air on Saturday morning as I headed toward the final Greenfield Winter Farmers Market of the season.

I was wrong on two counts. The temperature was more steely than soft, even if we had just turned the corner into March; and Market Manager David Paysnick of Rainbow Harvest Farm reported that while the regular market season doesn’t open until April 27, there will be a pop-up version of the Winter Farmers Market at this year’s North West New England Home Show. That’s March 16 and 17 at the Franklin County Technical School, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

This is good news for all of us. It gives me another chance to do what I like to do most — to simply wade into the scene, listen to some good string music (courtesy, this week, of Ragged Blue), nibble on an apple or two, and ask folks how they are getting on with a new season on the horizon.

First, I stopped to chat with my old friend Charlie Olchowski, who had taken over the bakery case for his wife, Terry Atkinson, who was playing guitar a few feet away. Olchowski, a longtime photojournalist who helped found CiderDays 25 years ago, tends to have an encyclopedic offering on everything from brewing to trout to, of course, apples. He told me he got a kick out of Pete Seeger and Lorre Wyatt’s take on “Old Apples,” the subject of last week’s column.

“Storage-apple taste,” Olchowski advised, leaves something to be desired, but he added, “It’s better than nothing at all.”

Next, it was over to the Just Roots table, where Director of Farm Operations Meryl LaTronica was feeling good about Greenfield’s expected 30-year extension of the group’s Greenfield Community Garden lease, welcome news as the group begins planting and signing up CSA shareholders for 2019. Reports are that the group is operating pretty close to the bone, I observed.

“Always,” LaTronica said, “but we like to think about what we have, not what we don’t have.”

What LaTronica had was five jars of seeds and she was challenging folks to identify them. Nobody could.

New to the mix on Saturday was Harper Keehn of New Haven, Conn., with his grinding wheels and whetstones, and who had no shortage of customers for knife sharpening at $1.25 per steel-inch. The secret to talking and sharpening at the same time, Keehn said, is keeping the blade “stable and at a consistent angle.”

Farmers market regular Natty Hussey of Bostrom Farm on Colrain Road in Greenfield always has a good word — and he almost always has customers on hand wanting to buy bacon that hasn’t been cured with nitrates. Hussey is willing to comply, but he always politely suggests that uncured bacon is not bacon at all, but rather “uncured pork belly.” Customers then generally spring for the nitrates.

Hussey, who served in the Peace Corps in the recently-renamed country of North Macedonia, is also a master’s degree candidate in resource management and conservation at Antioch University New England. He is particularly interested in geographic information system (GIS) mapping and would like, perhaps, to use drones to help area farmers map the condition of their fields.

Eric and Barbara Goodchild of Barberic Farm in Shelburne seem to add more offerings every time I walk by — leatherwork, blacksmithing, hops, yarn, pickled everything. Then there’s Eric Goodchild’s bagpipes. Makes you feel ... unproductive.

Turns out that back at the Just Roots table, Caro Roszell had the seed thing nailed. Chard, arugula, delicata winter squash and a couple others. She even had the various classifications nailed — cruciferous, cucurbit, chenopod, etc. Roszell, who is education director for the Northeast Organic Food Association of Massachusetts (NOFA/Mass), has a farmstand in Wendell and sports some serious chops when it comes to all things agriculture.

On the way out, I grabbed a ciabatta from Hearthstone Artisan Bakery’s Nicholas D’Alesandro who summed up the Greenfield Winter Farmers Market experience this way: “The quality is excellent, and everything is really local. It’s my favorite market.”

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.

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