Where the local food thrives

Sharing friendship and local food at Stony Loam Farm. Courtesy photo
Sharing friendship and local food at Stony Loam Farm. Courtesy photo
By Laurie Caswell Burke

Freshly picked carrots, plump blueberries, and crisp red lettuce just taste better. Vermont’s vibrant working agricultural landscape continues to thrive. Summer begins the long awaited time of year to enjoy an abundance of local, fresh produce. Whether you have a garden plot, participate in a CSA, visit the farmer’s market, or purchase local food at your market, eating food grown close to home has never been easier.

In early July, I decided to explore some of the local food opportunities in and around our town. I ventured out to Stony Loam Farm, my summer CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, located in Charlotte, to retrieve my weekly vegetable share and pick a few herbs and flowers in the expansive garden. The shed was brimming with vegetables, neatly organized on wooden shelves. It was bustling with other CSA members who were gathering their weekly bounty in colorful bags and baskets, and catching up with farmer Dave Quickel. A group of young kids were playing games in the field. Quickel’s exuberance is always present, and despite Mother Nature’s challenges on this year’s crops, he maintains a positive attitude and sense of humor. The intense rains and severe heat have not been kind to crops this year. As I was leaving, I noticed a group of young families had gathered around a picnic table to share plates of fresh food and stories. What a perfect way to celebrate the spirit of community and good food.

The following day, I met up with neighbor, Gail Albert, to pick sour cherries at Shelburne Orchards. We were greeted by owner Nick Cowles who was jubilantly riding his bicycle around the lot as Cuban style reggae music blared out into the orchard. A small group gathered to pick red ripe sour cherries, a season which is short in Vermont. Cowles happily bent the tall branches down for us to pick the ones that were beyond our grasp, and regaled us with orchard stories. As I left, Nick reminded me that peaches will be out in mid-August.

By 10am, the Shelburne Farmers market was bustling. There was the regular line for the kale/egg sandwich at Stony Loam’s stand which sells an average of 90 each week. The weekly Saturday market on the town green offers a festive gathering place for our community.

My husband lured me early that Sunday morning to the Charlotte Berry Farm to pick blueberries, his favorite seasonal berry. We picked two full buckets with my promise that these were strictly for eating, and not freezing for later days. The blueberry bushes were brimming with plump ripe berries as cars filled up the lot and families gathered their buckets.

On the way home, I stopped by the Shelburne Supermarket with hopes of finding rhubarb and fresh strawberries for a strawberry/rhubarb crisp that I promised my daughter Molly for her birthday. I worried that rhubarb season had passed, but there were a few stalks waiting to be purchased and a shelf full of fresh local strawberries.

As access to local food continues to gain momentum, trying to keep abreast of the multitude of happenings on the agricultural landscape can be challenging. My regular sources these days include a local food blog, In the Kitchen with Bronwyn, which offers conversation about food for food lovers and stories from the American Culinary landscape. Local Bijou Chocolate will be featured at the end of the month. Two of my favorite go-to web-sites that include happenings around the state are www.nofavt.org and www.diginvt.com. Vermont Open Farm week, Aug. 3-9 is an opportunity to visit local farms around our state, meet farmers, and milk a cow.

Summer is here. Summer is short. Let’s all embrace the opportunities to enjoy great bounty close to home and share gratitude for the community spirit that thrives here.