Category Archives: Farms

WINTHROP FARMERS’ MARKET PROFILE: WHOLESOME HOLMSTEAD

Wholesome Holmstead flowers

In Winthrop, we have a small but very nice Farmers’ Market that is held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the Winthrop Town Office. Vegetables, eggs, dairy, meat, and baked goods are sold there, and unless my husband, Clif, and I are very busy, it’s a rare Saturday when we don’t stop at the Farmers’ Market to buy something. Often, we go on our bikes as part of our daily ten-mile ride. For us, the location is perfect as we can swing by on our way home, which is about a mile from the Farmers’ Market. Clif and I have good-size bike bags, where we can pack plenty of stuff, ranging from raspberries to garlic sausage. Then home we pedal.

One of my goals this summer is to write a short profile of all the vendors at the Winthrop Farmers’ Market—unless of course they don’t want to be featured on the blog. (I expect most of the vendors will be happy to have the publicity.)

I decided to start with Wholesome Holmstead, where I get the wonderful garlic sausage that goes so well with my homemade sweet and sour sauce. Tomorrow, I plan to make the sausage and sauce dish, and instead of adding spinach, I’ll use a sweet red pepper I have on hand and some of Farmer Kev’s sugar snap peas. But I digress.

Karen Trenholm

On Saturday at the Farmers’ Market, I spoke with Karen Trenholm, one of the owners of Wholesome Holmstead, which is on 432 Stanley Road in Winthrop. In 1947, her family bought the farm, and Karen grew up there.

“This weekend, there will be four generations helping on the farm,” Karen told me.

She then went on to explain how Wholesome Holmstead is a diversified small farm, with meat, dairy, seasonal vegetables, flowers, and herbs. “And we’re making it work,” Karen added. “We’re thankful for those supporting local farms. It can be done. There is diverse farming in the state.”

“When things we eat can be grown in Maine, we should buy locally,” I added, and naturally Karen agreed with me. We also noted that this did not mean we wanted to give up using olive oil, lemons, and various spices, only that a real effort should be made to get produce and products from Maine farmers.

The chalk board
The chalkboard

I would have to say that Karen and her family are indeed getting good local support. At about 10 a.m. last Saturday, after only an hour of being open, Karen had sold out of many things, and the chalkboard she uses to advertise her food had been wiped clean of several items. Luckily for us, she still had some garlic sausage left.

Wholesome Holmstead attends various Farmers’ Markets in central Maine, including ones at the Arboretum and the Mill Park, both in Augusta, as well as markets in Belgrade, Gardiner, and Wayne. They also have a farm stand at their Stanley Road Farm, and the stand is open daily.

As a parting bonus, Karen gave me a good tip about how to use the garlic scapes that have recently become all the rage—garlic scape pesto. In a blender or food processor, add the scapes and some olive oil. To this I would also add some walnuts and some kind of grated hard cheese. Another idea for dinner this week because, yes, there are bags of scapes in my refrigerator, and while I have added them to stir-fries, I’ve barely made a dent in them.

Along with the great food, it’s tips like this that make going to the Farmers’ Market so enjoyable.

 

 

 

 

 

STILLMEADOW DAYBOOK BY GLADYS TABER

picture of bookThanks, yet again, to Nan and her blog, Letters from a Hill Farm, for introducing me to the books of Gladys Taber, who lived and wrote at Stillmeadow, an old farmhouse in Connecticut. The book I am reading, Stillmeadow Daybook, was published in 1955 by J. B. Lippincott Company, and in it Taber chronicles each month of the year on her farm. She starts with April, which is a good place to begin when gardening is central to your life. In her forward Taber writes, “There is something about the task of preparing vegetables that gives a woman a reflective mood. I wondered how many tons of potatoes I had pared since we put our roots down here in these forty acres of stony Connecticut soil.”

Taber loved the white farm house, built in 1690, from the moment she saw it: “[W]ith its steeply pitched roof, little windows with bubbly glass, and worn lintel, I knew I belonged to it.” But how Taber came to own this house and live there is a little unconventional. Taber, her husband, and her daughter were living in New York City as were Taber’s good friend Jill, her husband, and two children. Both families wanted a house in the country, “a week-end place where we could have outdoor living in peace…where vacations and holidays could be, we felt, very economical.”

So the two families pitched their fortunes together, bought the house, and, amazingly enough, they all got exactly what they wanted. As the children in both families grew and went to “various schools and colleges,” Stillmeadow was the home they could come back to. Even more amazing, over the years, the friendship between the two families didn’t fray with the tensions that must inevitably come with joint ownership. According to the book’s forward, when both Gladys and Jill became widows, they decided to live together at Stillmeadow, which became their “refuge and a haven.” Jill and Gladys had gardens where they raised all their vegetables, and they raised dogs as well. At one point they had thirty-six cocker spaniels, although in Stillmeadow Daybook, they are down to eight cocker spaniels and one Irish setter.

If Stillmeadow Daybook were only about country living—cooking, family, and food—then that would certainly be enough. To me, these are subjects that never grow old. But Taber, a writer and a creative writing teacher, had other things on her mind, too. Her thoughts about poetry—Keats was a favorite—world peace, literature, and other larger subjects are folded into the homely details of life at Stillmeadow, and they bring depth to this charming book. Here is Taber’s take on fiction: “I think novels and short stories will probably be around as long as men can read at all. And there is a great satisfaction to a writer in creating characters which no amount of good reporting could duplicate. I venture to say also that  great fiction illuminates life in a way no other form can do.”

Another thing that impressed me was how much of a foodie Taber was, especially as we tend to think of the 1950s as a grim culinary era in the United States. Taber’s concern with fresh, local food seems amazingly contemporary. “Economics is too complex for me. But I have instincts about supply and demand which I believe in. And I shall always feel a carrot next door is better than a carrot from Ames, Iowa, all things being equal.”

We baby boomers tend to feel sorry for women who came of age before the 1960s, those poor, unliberated things who spent day after frustrating day cooped up in their little houses with their little children, eating Spam sandwiches. While it is true that before the 1960s, the opportunities for women were far more limited than they are now, it is not true that all those pre-1960s women were bubble brains on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And it is arrogant of my generation to think this way. When I read As Always, Julia, the letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, I was struck by what a rich life of the mind these women had. The same was true for Gladys and her friend Jill, and that life of the mind brought a spark to even the most mundane chores, from peeling potatoes to making current jelly. The best thing about the life of the mind is that it can be lived anywhere that there are books and magazines, even on a farm in Connecticut, even in a little house in Winthrop, Maine.

The copy of Stillmeadow Daybook I am reading came from Lithgow Public Library as an interlibrary loan book. However, a quick look on Amazon.com showed me that while Stillmeadow Daybook is no longer in print, it can be purchased used at a reasonable price. I also expect that library sales and second-hand shops might be a good place to find Stillmeadow Daybook as well as any of the other numerous books that Taber wrote.

I am looking forward to reading more of Gladys Taber, and I will certainly be looking for her books at various summer book sales.

Again, many thanks, Nan, for introducing me to Gladys Taber.

 

 

THE FIRST DELIVERY FROM FARMER KEV

Farmer Kev's vegetablesThis year, we decided to join Farmer Kev’s CSA program. (Farmer Kev—aka Kevin Leavitt—is an extraordinary young farmer who lives in our town.) On Saturday, we received our first delivery. That’s right, Farmer Kev delivers. (We also have an “egg lady” who delivers our eggs. All we need is to find someone who delivers milk, and we’ll be convinced that we’ve zipped back to the 1950s.)

For this first delivery, Farmer Kev gave us two huge bags of lettuce and spinach and some snappy radishes, all packed in a funky wooden crate. We’ll certainly be eating very healthy this week!

Farmer Kev has done something interesting with his invoice. We bought a half share for $200, and along with listing that, he also itemized the spinach, lettuce, and radishes, giving them a market value of $10.75. In my opinion, he went a little low. Two big bags of organic lettuce would certainly go for more than $4. However, it will be interesting to see how the two sides—what we’ve paid vs. what we receive—balance out as the season progresses. If the first week is any indication, then I expect we’ll more than get our money’s worth.

Tonight, we’ll be having a huge Mexican salad for dinner, using the spinach and the lettuce from Farmer Kev’s garden and adding black beans, leftover ground turkey, olives, cheese, and salsa.

I’m hungry for it already.

FARMER KEV’S GARLIC

For the past couple of years, my husband, Clif, and I have been fans of Farmer Kev, a young farmer also known as Kevin Leavitt, who lives in our town when he isn’t at university studying sustainable agriculture. I have written previously about Farmer Kev so I will be brief. When Kevin was about twelve years old, he became fascinated with gardening and with growing things. He started with his parents’ backyard, and when that wasn’t enough, Kevin leased land not far from his house so that he could grow things to sell, thus making the jump from gardener to farmer.

Kevin has a booth at the Winthrop Farmers’ Market, and for the past couple of years, we’ve bought vegetables from him at the market. Somehow, his vegetables just taste better than everyone else’s vegetables. His corn is sweeter; his lettuce is crisper; his garlic has more pep and crunch. It really does seem as though Farmer Kev has a green thumb, a sort of “psi” talent for growing things. In reality, I suppose he has a combination of traits that allows a person to excel in any given field—a burning interest in a subject, perseverance, hard work, and the ability to learn from mistakes.

This year, Clif and I decided to join Farmer Kev’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Each week, starting sometime in June, we will be getting boxes of whatever is ripe in Kevin’s garden. We decided to start with a half share, which is $200, and see how that goes. (A full share is only $300, but we wanted to be sure we could eat all of the vegetables delivered in a half share before moving on to a full share.)

A week or so ago, Kevin sent pictures of his garden to members of his CSA, and he kindly agreed to let me use them in my blog. Above is a picture of his garlic, and despite the cool, rainy weather we’ve been having, it looks as though Kevin’s garden is thriving.

Come summer, come vegetables!

 

HOPEFUL NEWS FROM DETROIT

In the New York Times, Mark Bittman has written a terrific piece about a recent trip to Detroit. As readers well know, Detroit has fallen on some very hard times and indeed has lost much of its population. But, with abandoned buildings and lots have come opportunities for farming and food, and Detroit seems to be in the process of making a comeback as a city that gardens. Very encouraging for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which there is something about farmers’ markets, local bakeries and restaurants, and community gardens that bring a town or a city together. In short, along with providing tasty, nutritious food, they also build community, something we all need, no matter where we live.

BOWDOIN COLLEGE STUDENTS GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY

Nothing cheers me up as much as reading about young people working in gardens and on farms. Today, I read an article from the Bowdoin Daily Sun and learned that on Eco Service Day, some of the Bowdoin students took time out from studying to clean eggs, spread hay, plant seedlings, and prune apple trees.

Good for them!

Another cheering bit of news from that same article in the Bowdoin Daily Sun: “[T]he increasing popularity of local agriculture comes from younger Mainers (and more broadly, Americans) who are interested in restoring a connection to the land.”

Let’s hear it for young farmers. We certainly need them.