THE FARMERS’ GATE MARKET AND A DILEMMA FOR ME

Last Saturday was quite the foodie day for me and my husband, Clif. First, we went to the Winthrop Farmers’ Market, where we bought a great new cheese from Wholesome Holmstead, a farmhouse cheddar that is delicate yet has a nice tang. Very good! After that, we buzzed over to Farmer Kev’s house to pay him for the balance of our CSA share and to buy 2 dozen eggs. Then it was on to the Farmers’ Gate Market in Wales to pick up meat for our Memorial Day barbecue.

We had never been to Farmers’ Gate before, but we had heard good things about it from some of our friends. Recently, we had won a $25 gift certificate to Farmers’ Gate, and Clif and I decided that Memorial Day weekend would be the perfect time to check out the market and buy some meat.

Now, I want to remind readers that not long ago, I had made a decision not to eat meat anymore. Seafood and fish, yes, but not meat. For me, the decision was ethical—if I wasn’t willing to kill what I was going to eat, then I wouldn’t eat it, and fish and lobsters were as high up the food chain as I was willing to go. There were some gray areas. (Aren’t there always?) I would still eat eggs and dairy products, and there is a certain amount of killing that goes on to keep production flowing. And what about leather shoes? Should I buy them anymore? Probably not. But these questions aside, by and large, I was happy with my decision. I prefer fish and seafood over meat, and as Clif and I had been eating mostly vegetarian for quite some time, it was no hardship to adhere to this way of eating. That is, until I went to Farmers’ Gate Market. (I want to note that Clif had decided to continue to eat meat occasionally, and Shannon and Mike regularly eat meat.)

However, let us return to the Farmers’ Gate Market. Those who are familiar with central Maine will know that Wales is not exactly in the center of all things. Tucked between Augusta and Lewiston, Wales has a population of about 1,300, and it is very rural. Thus, to borrow a phrase from my friend Claire, the Farmers’ Gate Market “is way out in the willywhacks.”

“I wasn’t expecting much,” Clif would admit later, as we drove through the countryside to the Farmers’ Gate, and I think he envisioned going into someone’s shed or barn to get the meat.

What we found was a small yet decent-sized market that would not be out of place in Portland. The building is new and attractive, with plenty of room for a retail shop with a long glass case featuring various cuts of meat. There were also a freezer and a couple of large, glass upright refrigerators. In the back, visible to customers, was a room for preparing the meat.

So far, so good. I was ready to buy meat for my family, but I did not feel tempted myself. And then I spoke with Ben Slayton, one of the owners, who is young, very personable, and especially excited about sausage, which is one of Clif’s weaknesses. With great enthusiasm, Ben spoke about the Tuscan sausage, which he had made using garlic and fennel, and he suggested using it in a dish with white beans and sage. Ben then went on to explain how he and his wife had spent time in Tuscany, learning, among other things, how to make sausage.

Ben Slayton

Was I hooked? You bet I was, and we bought sausage, ground beef, and, for the Memorial Day barbecue, three thick pork chops. (One each for Clif, Mike, and Shannon. None for me.) Ben’s enthusiasm was infectious, as the saying goes, and it made me want to try the various meat, especially the sausage.

Did I give in to temptation? Yes, I did. Clif makes an especially tasty chili-powder rub for pork chops, and on Sunday, he grilled the chops just right, so that they were thoroughly cooked but still moist. I had to have a couple of bites, to see how the meat was, and it was delicious.

So now what? “How can you be a foodie without eating meat?” Clif asked. “You are leaving out about half the food that people eat.” I know, but I just feel so bad for the animals that are killed, and as far as the environment goes, it is better to eat a vegetarian diet.

“Eat meat once in awhile,” Mike suggested. “And when you do, get it from a place like the Farmers’ Gate.”

Perhaps that is what I will do. Maine has a climate that can support cows, sheep, and pigs. There is plenty of land for grazing, and enough rainfall for lush pastures and hay. According to their website, the Farmers’ Gate is very choosy about which farms their meat comes from, and they are especially concerned about getting meat from animals that have been pasture fed and raised humanely.

It looks as though there this will be another compromise on the bumpy road of green, ethical living. One thing is certain—it’s not easy being a foodie with a conscience.

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6 thoughts on “THE FARMERS’ GATE MARKET AND A DILEMMA FOR ME”

  1. We love the Farmer’s Gate Market and will buy our meat there most of the time. I loved the enthusiasm of the young man who showed us around and spoke about how the meat is prepared. We had country pork ribs which were amazing. I also bought chicken which was free range and marvelous. Makes me feel lots easier about eating both meat and chicken. I prefer to know where my food comes from and that it hasn’t been tortured before being slaughtered.

  2. It is a decision I wrangled with, but eventually decided I will just purchase from vendors who purchase locally produced meat from animals that live a good life and are humanely slaughtered. As you said, Maine is an ideal place for raising meat animals, and I do my part for the environment in other ways. We all need to make choices about what we can do to be conscious consumers and live sustainably. Just eating meat less frequently makes a difference, sourcing it from a place where it is produced in an environmentally sustainable way adds to the benefit.

    Be careful about eating to much farm raised fish, or fish that is high on the food chain.

  3. Those pork chops were really good!! 🙂

    I think Michael had the right advice, eat mostly vegetarian but when you do eat meat, eat locally (so you know that the animals have been treated well).

    1. Shannon, I will probably follow Mike’s advice. Kate, you are so right. Ali, good points about the fish, and we always take such things into consideration when we buy fish. In fact, we don’t eat fish that much. Clif and I, for the past couple of years, have been following Michael Pollan’s advice to eat “mostly plants.” Mary Jane, the enthusiasm at the Farmers’ Gate is truly a thing to behold.

  4. Hi: Happened across your blog because I was too lazy to write down a phone number for Farmers Gate Market. I’m writing from Emma’s Family Farm, we raise chickens for Farmers Gate, and I wanted to let you know a couple of things.
    1. We farm; we raise animals for meat. The animals are never far from our thoughts — its a hot day today and we’re running around checking all water and shade because, well, who wants to be overheated? We are a family farm, and although our animals are raised with slaughter in mind, we always transport and slaughter with a minimum of stress and use processors and butchers who we know and, in fact, are family people too. We love our animals and understand their needs by reading, watching and working with them. They are all raised outside except when warmth is necessary.

    2. Without animals, the types of fertilizers we’d have to use wouldn’t be very good at all. Our animals fertilize our pastures, our garden, our flowers and any “dirt” patches that need planting. n

    Just a couple of thoughts from Emma’s Family Farm.

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