Saturday, August 22, 2009

Glasgow, Wolf Point markets

You can't beat the prices at most farmers markets, and the farther you are from a big city, the better they are. At the Wolf Point market, potatoes are 50 cents a pound, beets are 75 cents a pound, and fresh eggs are $1 a dozen. At the Sidney market yesterday, I bought a fancy heirloom cucumber for 25 cents.

Between Sidney and Wolf Point are about 90 miles of beautiful scenery of rolling hills alternating with miles of flat nothing. There's not much in the way of civilization for most of the route, but I sure do enjoy the peaceful drive, which makes you appreciate the few stops along the way all the more.

There's not much in Wolf Point, population 2,600, but its farmers market is thriving. Four vendors supply a lot of people with produce, canned goods, and interesting baked items. Have you ever seen a square angel food cake?

I was told there are 2 other vendors who sell soap and jewelry, but they each had recent tragedies in their lives and couldn't make it today.

the Wolf Point market is an important social event

Another hour's drive along the flat part of Highway 2 (aka the
Hi-Line) brought me to the Glasgow farmers market.

This lucky market is situated in a shady park. After 20 years, they have settled in nicely, even paying to have a corner decorated to brighten the area.

About 7 vendors do a thriving business each Saturday. When I arrived at 9 am the tables were covered with baked goods, jellies and jams, and plenty of produce. An hour later, they were looking empty. Everyone told me they generally sell out, or close to it, by the end of the market.

As I've mentioned before, you're bound to meet interesting people at any farmers market. Today in Glasgow, I talked with Jan, who has been making jams and jellies to sell at the market for 20 years. She prefers picking her own free berries (bullberries, juneberries, chokecherries, and the like), but now that her leg isn't doing too well, she buys things like strawberries at Costco or goes to Western Montana to buy huckleberries.

Jan gave me a jar of her unique rhubarb-pineapple-cherry jelly and shared the recipe. It sounds pretty simple, so if you want to make some yourself, write and ask me for a copy.

I have often wondered who those people are who sell fruit from trucks along the road and occasionally show up at farmers markets. So I chatted with Fred of Terry, Montana, who imports fruit from Wapato, Washington, and sells it in Eastern Montana.

Fred used to pick up the fruit himself from Eastern Washington, but after putting 70,000 miles on his pickup during the first year, he arranged to have a kind of delivery service (that goes on to North Dakota and Colorado) drop it off on their way through Montana.

Fred sells the fruit to some local stores, but his best customers are people who pre-order and pick up at small towns throughout the area. This was his first time at the Glasgow market and he said he was pleased with the results.

Not all vendors who sell fruit this way have good produce, Fred explained to me. Some buy their produce from warehouses where the fruit is stored all year. That's why you buy bland-tasting apples this time of year, he said; they are selling last year's crop. This year's crop will appear in October.

The farmer Fred buys from picks the fruit just before it is ripe, but not when it is still green. Peaches will never get sweeter than when they are picked, but they will ripen, so they might look just fine. His advice: ask to taste a sample. The peach might still be a bit hard, but if it is sweet, it will be just right in a day or so.

People throughout Eastern Montana appreciate this opportunity to buy nice fruit. Peaches, plums, and apples can be real luxury items here.

Glasgow Farmers Market
Red Rock Plaza, on First Avenue South at Second Street South
July 25 - October 31
Saturday, 8 am to 2 pm

Wolf Point Farmers Market
on north side of Highway 2
July 11 - September 26
Saturday, 8 am - noon

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