Friday, June 28, 2013

Farmers Market Fridays - Early Season

Good morning and welcome to Farmer's Market Friday!  It is still early in the growing season here in Michigan so the farmer’s markets tend to have more offering by way of baked goods, fresh flowers, and preserves than they do wide variety of fresh produce.  If you are finding a lot of produce that typically isn’t ready yet, ask a few questions, the grower may have a greenhouse for growing early season produce or they may be shipping in produce from out of state. 
This particular morning we visited the Charlotte DDA Farmer’s Market in Charlotte, Michigan. 
This market is held every Saturday morning June through October from 8 – noon on the grounds of the old historic Courthouse at the corner of M-50 (Cochran Ave.) and M-79 (Lawrence Ave.).  There are farmer’s at this market that participate with WIC’s Project Fresh program that provides eligible families with coupons accepted by certain farmers that allow these families to purchase farm fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.  More information on Project Fresh can be found here – what a great program!
I will admit that the kids and I probably kill more time than we should at the farmer’s markets because we love to thoroughly check out each vendor’s goods and often get into chit-chat with them.  But it’s always educational and entertaining for us – there are vendors from a variety of backgrounds and with a wealth of knowledge and some even bring along their dogs we can fuss over.  Many times they are curious about our plans for their goods or have a little story for the kids or tips on how to make the best use of a particular item.  We like to go first thing in the morning when the dew is still on the grass and it’s not too hot yet.  This way the produce is not stressed, baked goods don’t have condensation, and the kids are ready for adventure and not tired or cranky (neither are the vendors and other customers!).
Photo credit for most of the pictures in this post goes to my daughter - I handed her my phone and told her to snap away however she wanted - didn't she do great!  How fun to see what perspectives she chose to shoot from and what caught her eye.
We were greeted by these pretty little cakes at the first table made by a woman and her teenage daughter.  They were reasonably priced but I had a set amount of cash to spend and decided that it was a little more than I wanted to pay when we didn't have a special occasion to celebrate.  With Michigan's Cottage Foods Law, vendors are allowed to sell foods produced in an unlicensed kitchen as long as they are properly labeled, including contact information (the Buy Michigan First website has a great free label templates and other info if you are considering selling homemade foods).
We were drawn to this tidy and colorful display of soy candles and goat's milk soaps.  They were strongly scented and very well made - not an air bubble to be found.  Little Man liked the blueberry scented candle so much (might also be the fact that he loves the color blue) he chose to use the money he brought to buy one for himself as I had already chosen a raspberry one and did not budget for two.  The asking price on the candles was $6 each or two for $11 so we saved a bit.  
We didn't buy any of the soaps this time around but they certainly were beautiful and looked very creamy.

 Several folks were selling flowers.  They varied from splits of perennials to potted annuals to cut bouquets from their gardens.  
A lot of times we will find the bouquets are sold with the vases for about $3-$10 total depending on the size of the bouquet.  The vases are usually generic or items they get from the local thrift shops for very inexpensive.  Some will leave them plain and others will add cute bows or paint designs on them.  While we have stopped bringing most cut flowers into the house due to the kids' allergies, we do love to look.
One vendor had these great looking broccoli starts just $1 for 12.  They were wrapped in bundles together with wet newspaper with baggies around the bottom to keep them cool and moist and were very healthy.  We were looking for a few last things to fill in the pallet garden so we bought a bundle of these.  We also bought two bags of swiss chard for $1 each and she had fresh green leaf lettuce that looked great but we still had some at home so passed on that.
A young lady was hosting a booth with fresh whole wheat honey bread, banana muffins and peanut butter cookies.  The bread went home with us - $4 for a loaf of dense, moist bread that she told us was baked the night before.  Now because this bread was so moist it was already building condensation in the bag so it got stored in the refrigerator as soon as we got home to keep it from molding.
This cute little goose held an assortment of homemade bread dipping sauces and dried seasonings.  I purchased the olive oil bread dipping sauce and a snack size baggie of dill.
I also bought this wonderful small round of dilly bread that I thought would work great for these Herbed Egg Salad Sandwiches but instead ended up using it with the tomatoes we bought from the FFA kids for this Farmer's Open-Faced Sandwich for dinner.

Here in Michigan almost every farmer's market has someone selling homemade maple syrup, honey and maple sugar candies in fun shapes. 
We did end up leaving with cake, however.  These little cakes were $4 each and were super moist and the perfect size for the four of us to share.  This one is red velvet.
She suckered us in by offering a free sample mini cupcake with a chocolate ganache frosting that was heavenly.  We bought the chocolate ganache mini cake.
Our full tally for the day for a total of $39 - 3 tomatoes, a chocolate ganache mini cake, a baggie of seasoned snack crackers, 2 soy candles, a small round of dilly bread, a loaf of honey whole wheat bread, 12 broccoli plants, 2 bags of swiss chard, a dozen chocolate chip cookies, a jar of seasoned rice mix (think homemade rice-a-roni), a packet of olive oil bread dipping sauce mix, and a baggie of dried dill seasoning.  Most of the items were consumed as-is except for those with recipes above.  The rice mix I am still awaiting feedback.  I made it late last night and hubby was not a fan - said it smelled like potpourri but had no taste (it was a salt-free mix).  I will have to see what the kids think of it tonight.  The chard has not been used yet but the plan is to serve it with ham this weekend.  Pictures of the broccoli all planted in the pallet garden will be coming soon.  The honey whole wheat bread has been a hit with Nutella, peanut butter or mascarpone cheese on it.  
Next Friday I'll talk more about lessons kids can learn with a fun trip to the farmer's market.  Thanks so much for visiting!  If you like what you see, please grab the Farmers Market Fridays button at the right side of the page and spreading the word!

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