the last of the summer markets

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It’s fall. Fall in New England really means something. Apple cider, golden trees, crisp air, and lots of pumpkins. I like fall, despite being cold most of the time. I guess you have to give a little to get a little.

This last weekend I attended a garlic party. If you haven’t been to one, it’s worth it. A big group of friends and acquaintances of a farm – in this case The Blue Moon Evolution’s restaurant garden – get together and plant the next seasons garlic. For those who don’t know, the garlic you eat is the same garlic you plant. Apparently it’s very hard to plant garlic the wrong way.

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We gathered and planted, and then reconvened inside to eat – our payment for an afternoons work. It felt like community at it’s best. It made me think of reading about Barn Raisings over a hundred years ago. People really helped their neighbors, because ultimately they were helping themselves.

Today was the last Exeter Farmers Market, which I think I’ve previously named as my favorite local market. I feel like I know the vendors at the Exeter Market, and they’re all good friends now. I love other Seacoast Markets as well, but Exeter just happens to hold a special place for me.

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I didn’t get to go today, but back during the furlough I went and took pictures. Most of the farmers had opted to discount or donate free food to workers on furlough. I was so mad at the time about what the government was putting us through. I didn’t care whose fault it was – left or right. I was just furious. It didn’t seem fair. It didn’t seem like anyone in Washington really cared.

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So it made me really happy that the farmers, on their own fruition, decided to help those affected by the furlough. I started writing this blog because I realized small communities are going to save themselves. We are only able to hold ourselves accountable in these selfish times.

I’ve been helped by my farmer friends before. They know, to some extent, that hardship that touches upon my life. I’ve lost one job this year, and had an excruciating wait between two other jobs. The wait is showing itself to be well worth it – I really feel like my current job might be a dream for me – but it made an impact. The farmers took notice, and they were generous.

It’s been over six months since I started this blog and I thought it only appropriate to reflect on why I started it, and why I think it’s important to continue with it. The truth is, it takes courage to cook for yourself, to try new things, to make real food. But it also takes courage to meet new people, to let them into your lives, to be forthcoming about who you are. You can’t do that in a grocery store.

We need to start sustaining ourselves on a much smaller basis. It’s environmentally the right thing to do, it’s economically the right thing to do, and it’s emotionally the right thing to do. So as much as I am able I will keep writing about thoughts, farms, food, and reflections. There is a lot to say.

But most importantly, local farms shouldn’t be a novelty food source. They don’t treat their customers as anything less than real valuable people. We should be so generous.

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it takes a market

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“They didn’t mention the farmer’s market!”

I swear it was my mom who cried this, not me. To give credit where credit is due, she was participating in CSAs and dragging me to markets long before I had any interest. But over the last year my passion for local food has become so fervent that anyone close to us might find it odd that she could get more indignant than myself over a farmer’s market.

Her outcry stemmed from the most recent travel review of Portsmouth, NH, done by the New York Times’ Ethan Gilsdorf. Mr. Gilsdorf fit a weekend worth of Portsmouth visits into a full page article titled “36 Hours – Portsmouth, N.H.” It was flattering, and accurate. He used the usual buzzwords to describe Portsmouth – historical, nautical, beer. He visited historic sites like Strawberry Banke and local landmarks such as The Press Room. He just didn’t mention the Portsmouth Farmer’s Market.

My mother’s point was valid. Presumably a tourist would be visiting the city of Portsmouth during the summertime, when the produce on the Seacoast is most vibrant. Was it too much to ask that he walk just past the main Portsmouth strip to the city offices, where the farmer’s market was set up?

My boyfriend Thom, ever the voice of reason when it comes to my local escapades, said that yes it was too much to ask. Mr. Gilsdorf was writing a piece about Portsmouth, not the greater Seacoast Area. I argued that Portsmouth is the Seacoast, just as much as Dover or Exeter, or Newmarket is for that matter. That Portsmouth is less of a city and more of a neighborhood. Just a part of a whole. Thom disagreed, saying people have done reviews of “The Seacoast.” That in fact Dover, Exeter, and Newmarket as just as much unique and individual as Portsmouth is. They support each other, but they are not the same place by any means.

At the very core the Seacoast towns do meld together, like any New England area. They were divided up from bigger ecosystems and cultures and greatly supported one another throughout time. This is why the Farmer’s Market might seem like such a significant oversight to someone like my mom. It will always be hard to mention one Seacoast town to a local without evoking the idea of another. The Farmer’s Markets represent this feeling.

For example, The New York Times’ article cited the Black Trumpet as a place to visit. Like all of my favorite restaurants in the Seacoast, the Black Trumpet literally draws from it’s local roots. These sorts of restaurants proudly source from local farms not as a marketing ploy, but because it’s the natural thing to do. The Seacoast has such a strong farming community it’s no surprise more locally sourced restaurants open every year, and flourish.

When talking to Thom, he made a very valid comment. It would be hard to include a farmer’s market in “36 Hours – Portsmouth, N.H.” because a farmer’s market is like it’s own city. The Portsmouth Farmer’s Market exemplifies more of my idea of the “part of a whole” than the city itself. Farmers come and congregate, each from a different place, to create a greater community. Markets develop personalities similar to that of a city. The Portsmouth FM is more of a reflection of the Seacoast Area than any one seacoast town.

In fact, during the summer, every day there’s a market driving distance from where I live with it’s own culture and value. Each one could be written about, vendor by vendor, like the 36 Hours column. There are many markets as vibrant as Portsmouth’s. You can shop for your whole week at a good market.

So, I am not offended that the Farmer’s Market wasn’t mentioned in the New York Times piece. But, the market culture should be mentioned by someone. You can learn more about the heart of an area by visiting it’s farmer’s market than by visiting a handful of stores or restaurants. Highlight your trip with the sightseeing and restaurant going, and understand the history through museums like Strawberry Banke. But you may never really understand where you are until you’ve visited the farmer’s market.

Newmarket Farmers Market

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“Are you a Newmarket girl?”

I get this question a lot from the locals. My answer is complicated – mostly because what they’re asking is complicated. They are sort of asking if I live here now. They are also sort of asking if I lived here as a child. They are sort of asking if I want to live here for the rest of my life.

They want to know if I am a part of the structure of Newmarket, a piece of it’s history and legacy. I am sorry to say that I am not. Not yet, at least. My grandparents didn’t live here. My name is nothing special. I don’t have any cousins, second or otherwise, in town. I moved here with my family when I was thirteen. My Newmarket legacy hasn’t even begun.

Newmarket is all about tradition and it’s personal history.

I do have the benefit of knowing the important family names in town. I did go to the middle school and high school. I’ve walked the same halls as the old women who want to know whether I’m really a “Newmarket girl” or if I just live here.

I have really tried to align myself with this town, because I love it here. It’s beautiful. The people are friendly and nosy and sweet. I want to be a “Newmarket girl” because being synonymous with this town is a wonderful thing. There are a lot of people who feel the same way, and I think you will find that they all agree on one thing.

Newmarket is a very special place.

It was about three weeks ago that my boyfriend, another Newmie-phile, pointed out that I’d never gone to the Newmarket farmers market.

“If you’re trying to promote local, you should really just go to the market in your town.

He had a valid point. About two weeks after that I was talking to Steve from Mildred’s Drumlin farm about doing a piece on his farm. We weren’t halfway in to our brief conversation when he said.

“You should come to the Newmarket Farmer’s Market. It’s not doing as well as it should. I think you should write about it.”

So I made a point to go because both men were right. Newmarket is my home, and thus the market is my market. It takes place every Saturday in the summer. I’m ashamed to say that I was a little taken in by the hustle and bustle of the Portsmouth Market. Prior to this summer I haven’t had a Saturday off in three years, but this year I’ve had no excuse. I just kind of forgot about the market happening right in my town. I wondered if that’s why it’s not doing as well as it should. Maybe everyone just forgot.

When I arrived to the market on Saturday I was immediately impressed – there was so much free parking. I’m used to scouring parking lots or getting to markets an hour early just to find a spot for my car. If Newmarket were a busy market, they would still have plenty of parking. You can park by the side of the building or across the street at the high school. It was awesome.

The market, admittedly, was small. But it wasn’t that small. I think I counted eight vendors and the market manager Rob Carpenter said that they usually had four more. There were only two true produce vendors, but they had the essentials – greens, potatoes, eggs, beans and garlic. Rob mentioned that they had lost two of their long-standing produce vendors this year to various life and business circumstances, and were actively seeking more. It seemed like a really welcoming place to have a stand, especially for newer farmers who want to try a market without sinking a lot of money into a booth in Portsmouth or Exeter.

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The two produce vendors, Mildred’s Drumlin Farm and The Root Seller were right in the front of the horseshoe shaped market. Steve from Mildred’s Drumlin, of Lee, NH was ever the gracious farmer, mellow and friendly. He had plenty of greens, potatoes, radishes, and other yummy locally grown bits. I was really impressed that he had duck eggs for sale, which are my favorite eggs to cook with. He explained that at the end off the week they sell the leftover eggs from their CSA, and duck is nearly always there. This alone has made Newmarket Farmer’s Market a staple for me now.

The Root Seller was also impressive to me. This family that farms is out of Nottingham, NH. They are exactly what they say – sellers of roots, beans, and maple syrup. I was especially excited to see the dried beans, which I’ve been keeping an eye out for at every market I have gone to this season. I also really liked that they had Grade B maple syrup. I find that Grade A to Grade B is like Skim to Whole milk for me. There is a lack of complexity in flavor in the Grade A, and you tend to get more out of Grade B. Maybe that’s why all the chefs that I know choose Grade B when they buy maple syrup.

The rest of the stands were either artisanal crafts or prepared food, but Thom and I took the time to visit every one. We were their around 11, when a steady influx of customers began milling about. However, I found that all the vendors were nice in a noticeably genuine way. The prices were incredibly fair, a few vendors admitting that at this particular market they sell using their wholesale prices.

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There were more vendors than I can write about in one post, considering the distinct personalities of each. Cracked An Egg Farm, a staple among Seacoast Markets, was the place to get a variety of different meat. There were a group of women who make jellies out of fruits and wines (I fell in love with their Earl Grey jelly,) Hickory Nut Farm sold finely crafted goat cheese, linens, honey, a potter who made beautiful functional wares, a few vendors sold soaps, a baker, a crepe maker, and  a couple that built birdhouses and beautiful jewelry boxes. What impressed me most was the balance of goods. It was clear that Rob Carpenter put a lot of thought into who was at the market.

I left feeling uplifted. This market really fit in the town of Newmarket. It was small, but personable. The vendors were outgoing, and it didn’t feel overly weighed down by one particular type of good. While there were fewer produce vendors than there could have been, I could tell that they were strong and seasoned.

But, you could tell in the conversations with the vendors that the market had been suffering. There weren’t as many people as in the previous years. This year in particular has been really rough on Saturdays – either raining or scorching hot. The Stone Church has also opened a Saturday Market, not a farmer’s market, that has thrown a lot of confusion into the mix.

I encourage you to support this market. It’s well established and close to most of the major Seacoast towns. Folks from out of town should take advantage of everything Newmarket has to offer. It has been expanding so much in the last several years. Strong new businesses have started growing downtown and in The Mill’s. There’s good food to eat, and the Newmarket Farmer’s Market is worth a visit.

Newmarket residents should learn to appreciate all of what the market at Carpenter’s Greenhouse is. After all – she’s a Newmarket Girl.

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The Newmarket Farmer’s Market takes place every Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm at Carpenter’s Ole English Greenhouse, 220 South Main St, Newmarket, NH. They are actively looking for more diversity and produce vendors, so spread the word and contact Rob Carpenter at newmarketfarmersmarket@gmail.com for more information.