Tag Archives: farmers market

Farmers Market Spotlight: Fayetteville, Arkansas

The farmer’s market in Fayetteville, Arkansas is known for its colorful flower bouquets as much as it is for fruits and vegetables.

Most of the vendors who sell heirloom tomatoes are also selling zinnias and dahlias in a rainbow of colors.

Colorful peppers and flower bouquets
What’s more colorful — the peppers or flower bouquets?
Happy Flowers
Flowers make me happy

Around since 1973, the market on Fayetteville’s historic square has grown into a hip place on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. I was there last Saturday. Visiting the market helped me get a good picture of what Fayetteville is like.

I saw it this way: A miniature Austin without so much “weird” crossed with Oxford, Mississippi without so much Oxford shirts or Faulkner.

There were many tomato varieties and colors. Some were bicolored. Some of them were even red. Actually, Arkansas is known for pink tomatoes. It’s the state’s official fruit/vegetable. Bradley County’s Pink Tomato Festival is one of the oldest continuously running festival in the state.

Tomatoes come in many colors
Yellow, Red, Pink and Almost Black.Tomatoes come in many colors

The Fayetteville vendors were a mix of:

  1. New urban gardeners with their organic kale and food trucks

2.  Rugged farmers from places like Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove who’ve been working the terraced slopes of the Ozark Mountain foothills for decades and

3.  Many Asian family farmers introducing squash blossoms and edamame to the local food scene.

Arkansas’ growing number of Asian farmer includes Xiong’s Farm in Decatur, Arkansas. They have been selling at the Fayetteville Farmers Market for six years.

 

Arkansas is on the forefront of the growing edamame industry. It was the first state to commercially grow the edamame soybean variety. And, the town of Mulberry near Fort Smith is home to the annual Edamame Festival. Learn more here.

So Arksansas is now home to the Edamame Festival as well as the Purple Hull Pea Festival (Emerson).

It’s National Farmers Market Week, and I appreciate my Shreveport Farmers Market and the smaller markets in my community. But I also enjoy visiting other markets when I’m on the road.

Mid Week in West Monroe, Louisiana

I was traveling on Interstate 20 the other day and made a stop in West Monroe, Louisiana. I’ve always loved Antique Alley there and never seem to have enough time to cover the whole strip.

I was glad to check out Miss Kay’s Sweets & Eats. The Duck Dynasty personality recently opened a bakery and lunch spot in a renovated 1920s-era building that was once West Monroe’s first gas station. I was in a hurry so I grabbed some potato salad to go. (I’m a tough potato salad critic, so if that’s an example of the quality of other items on the menu, I’ll be back!).

I enjoyed the mural on the side of the building (see top of page) and was glad to know the West Monroe Farmers Market wasn’t far away and open six days a week, so I hopped on over. Here are a few pictures from that quick trip.

My favorite sign at the Farmers Market

Take a Sunday Drive to Faith Farms & Arena in Elm Grove

Something is always going on at Faith Farms & Arena on Highway 527 in the southern Bossier Parish community of Elm Grove.

Every other Sunday afternoon there’s a farmers market with a neighborly feel. I went just before the Fourth of July and found fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, juicy watermelon and beef for the grill. Plus, there was plenty to take home for the freezer — purple hull peas, pintos, crowders and such.

The farm has been owned by Larry and Debbie Roberts for more than 20 years and is now managed by grandson Colton Wilkins, who has cattle and horses and typical agriculture crops of wheat, corn & hay.

But there’s so much more to this family-run operation that will keep you coming back again and again.

Colton’s mother, Candy Wilkins, the Roberts’ daughter, is the event manager and has been adding activities during the past year to meet the need for more family entertainment. Besides the biweekly farmers market, there’s:

*Farm animal petting zoo, play area and pony rides. (You also can bring your own horse ($10 fee) have a good place to ride.

*Sunday lunch and Monday/Wednesday suppers. Candy’s husband Buck is usually frying catfish for lunch on farmer’days ($10). Meals are offered for sale (eat in or to go) on Monday and Wednesday nights for an affordable $7 to $10.

*Kernel Kobb’s Corn Maze. Beginning Sept. 23 through Oct. 31, Kernal Kobb’s corn maze will bring more activity here along with haunted house — the Gentleman Death’s Shocktale Show, run by Shreveport’s longstanding Gas Light Players theatre group.

There’s a plethora of activity throughout the year–horse riding events, Valentine’s Dinner, an Easter egg hunt, Polar Express family movie night, bible studies, concerts and charity benefits.

And how about a perfect place for an rustic-themed party or wedding? Check out some of the fun event photos on the Faith Farms & Arena Facebook page.

You don’t have to drive far from Shreveport-Bossier City to experience a little country life. If you only have a few minutes, drop by and pick up some fresh produce or a meal to go. If you want to while away an afternoon arrive early, eat lunch in and air conditioned portion of the arena, let kids play or ride ponies and enjoy a  fun Sunday summer afternoon on the farm.

Next Farmer’s Market Dates: July 16 & 30 noon to 4 p.m.

Kernel Kobb’s Corn Maze: Sept. 23-Oct. 31

Faith Farms & Arena

 

 

Watermelon, Wine & Wildflowers along Shreveport’s Buncombe Road

I love stumbling upon summer produce on the side of the road like I did the other day when I was taking the backroads to a clock repair shop.

Driving down Buncombe Road on the west edge of Shreveport turned out to be a nice adventure.

It all started when I saw the muscadine vines and an “open” sign at On Cloud Wine, which bills itself as “the biggest little winery in Louisiana.”  Outside, chickens, geese and ducks were roaming, and there were fresh eggs for sale in the porch refrigerator.

Inside, owner Debbie Keckler was cleaning some equipment used to produce and bottle 16 varieties of wine. One Cloud Winery makes all of the wine onsite with juices from all over the world and the muscadines growing just a few feet away.

Cajun Culade, a sweet muscadine wine, and Bourbon Street Jazz,  White Zinfandel, and wine of the month, are just two of the catchy Louisiana-themed names. There’s also lots of cute gift items.

Hours are Monday through Friday 1 to 6 pm and Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm. The tasting bar is open Thursdays through Saturdays.

Next, I came across a truckload of watermelons and a canopy covering fresh vegetables at the intersection of Woolworth and Buncombe roads. Clyde Adams is there most Mondays through Saturdays. Everything he was selling that day came from his farm in nearby Greenwood, except for the red and yellow-meated watermelons that he brought in from DeRidder.

I picked up some squash and my first watermelon of the season, I did not regret it. It’s usually hit or miss when I pick watermelons, but Clyde thumped around and found me a winner.

A few miles down the road, I began seeing Burma-shave style signs announcing what’s upcoming—“cucumbers…raw honey…canning tomatoes…sweet corn 4 u freezer.”

I must have just missed the closing. The gate was locked so I’ll have to go back another time. The stand is called Matthew’s Garden, and it’s regularly open weekdays and Saturday afternoons.

Next to that farm is Mikissick Herb Farm. The McKissicks don’t have a roadside stand but sell fresh produce and essential oils at the Shreveport Farmers Market. I caught up with Marilyn McKissick last Saturday, who said the summer crop is winding down but she’s planting fall tomatoes.

McKissick Herb Farm
Interesting greeting at McKissick Herb Farm

She also said at least one more farmer may occasionally sell produce  at the corner of Buncombe and Simpson Road

Along the way I saw Black-eyed Susans blooming, eggs and hay for sale and maybe an old tractor too.  When I got to Greenwood, there was also produce for sale at the entrance of a BBQ restaurant, but I had already spent my budget.

So I recommend a summer drive down Buncombe Road. You never know what you might find.

Fresh vegetables along Buncombe Road
Black-eyed Susans along the road

 

 

Saturday Morning at Phoenix Public Market

Even though I can’t usually load up on fruits and vegetables, I like to visit farmers markets while traveling to experience the local flavor and check out the booths and creative vendor names.

On a recent Saturday, I went to the Phoenix Public Market on the edge of downtown Phoenix.

Local tomatoes, organic herbs and oranges (orange trees are on residential lawns everywhere in Phoenix) were abundant. However, the best thing I ate came from Jerusalem Bakery. I got two outstanding borekas, sesame seed-topped phyllo dough with different fillings inside. One borek a was stuffed with feta cheese and kalamata olives and other with mushrooms, cheese and onions.

Although not a food booth, my favorite name was a shaving kit booth run by an Army veteran: “Shaving Private Ryan.”

 

A Gratitude Lesson From a Rainy Vacation Day

A recent vacation taught me an unexpected lesson on gratitude.

The  vacation itinerary that I drew up for a recent trip that I took with my daughter included a morning drive along the Hood River County Fruit Loop, a 35-mile route dotted with 30 farm stands in Oregon between the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood.

It was prime  harvesting season when I was there in October so I envisioned lots of apple picking on a crisp, sun-splashed fall day. Then we’d have lunch at a local winery and enjoy an afternoon of bicycling  on America’s original scenic byway. Perhaps we would hike a little of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The only question was how could we choose among those 30 points of interest–fruit stands and berry farms, wineries and cider houses, u-pick apple and pear orchards, lavender farms, an alpaca farm and even a chestnut  farm.

The Fruit Loop brochure had me excited as I looked at the farms pictured with blue skies, dahlias in the foreground and snow-capped Mt. Hood in the background. Likewise, the historic Columbia Gorge Highway site had postcard-worthy photos of bicycle trails.  I packed a few of the new almond butter-filled Clif bars just to create a photo similar to the one of a cyclist on the package.

clif-bar

But it was not to be. It rained miserably all day. So we didn’t get to bicycle or hike at all. We didn’t ride the Fruit Loop with our windows down and sun roof open as we had hoped. We should have peeked through the sun roof with our umbrella for a amusing photo op, but frankly I was too bummed out.

We did drive along Highway 35 and the side roads that make up the Fruit Loop. We stopped at a  few farm stands — Packer Orchards, Apple Valley Country Store & Bakery and Draper Girls Country Farm. We found the best variety at Draper Girls — Pacific Rose, Spice and Pink Pearl to name a few. The latter had a bit of pink in the flesh.

pink-pearl-pink-inside

Our adventure for the day: Returning to the Airbnb to watch Reese Witherspoon in “Wild.” And eating some of those apples.

So what was the gratitude lesson?

It took me a while upon returning home, but I reflected on past vacations. On one trip to the beach, rain was forecast every day of the week–we almost cancelled our condo. But as it turned out, it rained none of the days we were there.

We did experience a downpour three years ago during one of the vacation days in New York City, but that was one day of rain, four days of sunshine. (And can you really whine on a rainy day in New York when that means spending it in the Metropolitan Museum of Art?)

On my rough scorecard of vacations past, I’m averaging about  9 out of 10 sunny days. Was I as grateful for those as I was complaining about my rainy October trip to Washington and Oregon?

From now on, I’m going to start vacations with less of an entitlement mindset about the weather. Then, when a vacation day is wrapped in sunshine, maybe I’ll treat it like a gift.

And be more thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pickles, Jams, Relishes and Stuff: Last Days at the Farmers Market

I usually pick up a jar or two of something pickled or jellied at the Shreveport Farmers Market.

The next two Saturdays are great opportunities to load up the pantry with those items as the fresh vegetables wane and the market winds down for the year  on Aug. 27. The Bossier City Farmers Market continues each Saturday through Nov. 19. The Shreveport Farmers Market will be back for a fall run beginning Oct. 22.

Last week, I spent a few minutes visiting with Ben and Dorothy Pratt of Natchitoches at their Sugarmakers booth at the Shreveport Farmers Market. The Pratts just may  have the biggest variety of canned items for sale at any farmers market any where in the country: 86 different kinds.

“Not all varieties are available all the time,”  Ben quickly points out.

Still, there is plenty to choose from each week. Most popular: things like mayhaw jelly, muscadine jelly, fig preserves. If you’ve been around North Louisiana long enough, you’re familiar with those. But I bet you’ll find some new ones at Sugarmakers.

Possum grape jelly? Possum grapes are tiny little berries that grow wild , says Dorothy, a retired licensed practical nurse, who has been  canning since she was a little girl.

Or how about cinnamon basil jelly, cantaloupe jam, onion and bacon marmalade., white Zinfandel wine jelly. The list goes on and on including jelly made from obscure berries such as loquats and pyracantha.

And, perhaps, the most interesting according to the Pratts? Monkey butter, a sweet jam made from bananas, coconut and pineapple — from a recipe their niece got in the Phillipines.

The Pratts get up each Saturday at 3 am to come to the market, and they plan to be there for the final two Saturdays. Dorothy and Ben, a retired schoolteacher, have been selling at farmers markets since 2001. They also sell at Cane River Green Market in Natchitoches and have racked up quite a few county and Louisiana State Fair blue ribbons.

I came away with jars of spicy marinated green beans, fig jam and hot jalapeno pepper jelly from Sugarmakers. Over the summer I’ve also stocked up on squash pickles from Angel Farms, spicy zucchini relish from Gethsemane Gardens (they’ve got lots of hummus too) and some lemon basil caponata (eggplant) relish from Cindy Sue’s.

So there are plenty of reasons to head to downtown Shreveport during the last two weekends in August.

Go to Gullo’s For Produce, Lunch & To Go Meals

I’m lucky enough to live less than two miles away from Gullo’s Fresh Produce & Classic Bake Shop on Flournoy Lucas in Shreveport. Last year, I had to go the entire summer without Gullo’s as it had to rebuild from a fire.

I’m thankful a renovated Gullo’s Fresh Produce opened earlier this year. It includes an enclosed dining room so you don’t have to eat outside on the patio or under the pecan tree in the July heat.

I like to pop in from time to time when I need a few tomatoes, peppers or some other veggies. I usually leave with more than I intended — a jar of green tomato pickles or some locally made toffee.

There’s also “to go” casseroles and salads in the refrigerator and some baked goods.

But the real draw is the hot lunch menu.  They are known for their hamburgers on sourdough buns that have frequently been included in Best Hamburger in Shreveport, even Best Hamburger in Louisiana lists. We went the other day. I was good and got the salad with chicken, Thankfully, my husband shared significant bites of his Friday special–hamburger steak, squash, braised cabbage (my favorite), sweet potatoes and homemade roll.

The new Gullo’s Fresh Produce has evening hours and and is open Sundays. And according to Gullos Facebook page, they are planning a  Gullo’s #2 in downtown Shreveport.

 

No Louisiana July Is Complete Without Mitcham’s Peaches in Ruston

Since living in Louisiana, a  jaunt to Mitcham’s Peach Farm in Ruston is as sure a summer thing as white sandals, long days and 100 plus heat indexes.

I’ve been known to make three trips to Ruston in one week for peaches, and that was before the Mitchams added the ice cream and peach store several years ago.

With so many farmers markets to shop and my busy schedule, I now limit myself to one good trip to Mitcham’s a year. Since it’s only one time a year, I feel entitled to a big soft serve peach ice cream cone. When I was growing up my family had a small peach orchard, a side business to our dairy. Our dairy made ice cream when I was very little, but we never sold peach ice cream.

peach ice cream
My niece and nephew enjoying the peach ice cream

As far as peaches go. I’d recommend buying the biggest peaches they have, which are usually in those gift boxes and may cost more than $2 a peach. On the day I went earlier this month, they didn’t have those so I got a large bucket for $25 with about 25 peaches. They also sell overripes good for cooking.

You’ll also want to call to see if they have peaches available that day. I just checked their Facebook page today, and it said they won’t have any until later this week.

The Peach Store
The Peach Store

When I was at Mitcham’s earlier this month, I was more observant about other things for sale. In the peach shed, tomatoes, blueberries and shelled peas were available. There were also some lush ferns reasonably priced at $10 each.

In their farm store, which is open year round, there are many peach products — not only jams, jellies and salsas but bath products, peach cookware, gift baskets and other things. They have yummy salsa and pepper jelly from the Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home, peach tea and peach lemonade.

Inside Peach Store
Inside the peach store

And, then I found a really unexpected item — ammunition. I haven’t fully investigated, but I doubt that many places outside North Louisiana  sell fresh peaches and ammo.

 

Mitcham’s is about 70 miles east of Shreveport. On I-20, take the Grambling exit #81. Go north on Highway 149. Take a right on Garr Road and keep right on Highway 544. Shortly you’ll see a sign and Mitcham Orchard Road on the left. Follow that to the peach shed and store.  

 

Tomatoes Day 28: My Fourth Trip to Vicksburg’s The Tomato Place

You can read about a previous trip I took to The Tomato Place here.

The best way to describe the atmosphere at The Tomato Place in Vicksburg is a cross between Caribbean smoothie bar and Mississippi produce stand.

If you can’t image what that is like, I understand. You are just going to have to go experience The Tomato Place yourself. Owner Luke Hughes was interviewed by some publication, and said it takes four visits to know what this place is about. I just got back from my fourth visit so I guess I know a thing or two.

Tomatoes and potatoes
Baskets of local tomatoes and potatoes

It is a farm stand selling tomatoes and other produce. Plus, there’s lunch where BLTs are the best sellers. But there’s also such entrees as catfish platters and grilled salmon. And, then there are smoothies—that and the bright colors around the place are where the Caribbean comes in.

My first visit to The Tomato Place last October was a quick stop. I’m not a regular smoothie fan so I passed. Next time, I got a natural plum smoothie and have become hooked. I’ve also had the apple blackberry, and it was great too.

The lunches I had also were wonderful, although I’ll warn you that the service is leisurely. I had a BLT club and pound cake a week ago, and earlier I had chicken salad and the pork skins that are fried on site. They come to the table crackling hot with a cup of The Tomato Place’s signature product, Mississippi Fever, a liquidy pepper jelly.

Tomatoes and watermelons were from Smith County, Mississippi. Peaches from Chilton County, Alabama and Lake Providence, Louisiana. If you poke around the nooks and crannies, you will find an eclectic merchandise mix —  grits and popcorn, local artwork, jazz CDs and fedoras.

I went outside and got Luke to pose for a picture and was struck by this purple petunia against the faded red painting on a shed. The Tomato Place is a cluster of sheds and shacks

Luke Hughes
Owner Luke Hughes opened The Tomato Place in 2000

Petunia Against Red Shed

Uncle Si and the folks at Duck Dynasty have been by for a show, and Mississippi Public Broadcasting did an interesting segment on The Tomato Place, which you can view here.

Tomatoes and BLTs are the best sellers, but the smoothies are what I will go back for.   I don’t want to ever cross the Mississippi River into my home state without swinging down to The Tomato Place and getting one.

The Tomato Place is on U.S. Highway 61 South, about four miles south of Vicksburg. thetomatoplace.com