WINTHROP FARMERS’ MARKET PROFILE: R & L BERRY FARM

Richard Reed of R & L Berry Farm
Richard Reed of R & L Berry Farm

Last weekend, I found out some sad news: Saturday, September 3 was the last day of the Winthrop Farmers’ Market. They are closing shop early this year because supplies are running low. I’ll miss my Saturday morning bike rides to the farmers’ market—buying fresh food and talking to the vendors. (However, I still have an “in,” so to speak, with Farmer Kev for vegetables. He has surplus to sell to his CSA customers.)

I admit that this early closing caught me off-guard. On this blog, I had planned to feature a profile of each of the Winthrop Farmers’ Market vendors, and as the market usually runs until October, I thought I had plenty of time to include them all. Wrong! I missed two of the vendors, and I hope to write about them next year.

But I did manage to talk to Richard Reed of R & L Berry Farms on 22 Berry Road in Readfield. As the name of the farm suggests, Richard and his wife, Leane—hence R & L—specialize in berries, blueberries and raspberries, but they grow vegetables as well. Berries are sold at the farmers’ market, and at their farm, when the berries are in season, Leane and Richard allow customers to pick their own. In addition, Leane makes berry pies,  jellies, banana bread, and zucchini bread to sell at the farmers’ market.

They also sell honey, and right now they have 20 hives. Leane and Richard plan on adding 10 more hives and want to focus on honey and honey products: creamed honey, honey sticks, honey hand-creams, combed honey, and, of course, jars of honey. With honey having a much, much longer shelf life than fresh berries, it is easy to understand why the Reeds want to increase their honey production. And, honey is certainly delicious. On oatmeal. In green tea. On toast. In bran muffins. There are lots of good ways to use honey.

Leane and Richard have been growing and selling berries and vegetables for seven years.  To further diversify, Richard has been learning how to make beef jerky, with much guidance on safety issues coming from the University of Maine at Orono. He plans to buy beef from Wholesome Holmstead, one of the vendors at the Winthrop Farmers’ Market and a farm that has been featured on this blog.

I love berries and honey, but what I really love are Richard’s whoopie pies, which he, rather than his wife, makes. Small—just the right size as far as I’m concerned—moist, often studded with mini-chocolate chips and thick with cream, these whoopie pies have become a Saturday treat, and I will miss them. I can and probably will buy Wicked Whoopee Pies at the grocery store, and Wicked Whoopies are very good. But Richard’s are better. He has a knack for making them, and I hope his enthusiasm for beef jerky doesn’t interfere with his whoopie pie production.

I’ll be looking for whoopie pies next spring when the farmers’ market opens.