Saturday, August 25, 2012

Depot Farmers Market

A tractor in the park next to the Depot in Livingston drew my attention this morning as I was on my way to another farmers market. It's always a joy to find a new farmers market, and I stopped on the spot to check out this one. It's small, but it's a real gem.

This is the third year for the Depot Farmers Market, where, I was told, you'll usually find 3 to 6 local farmers with a glorious abundance of produce. Today, there were two farmers with piles of enticing fresh, colorful, and unusual vegetables, and one table loaded with baked goods. You won't find any crafts here.

Don't be shy about asking the farmer what he or she is selling, because they understand that some produce can look odd to someone who is used to finding standard items in the supermarket.

Geyser Farm's tractor was hitched to a cart filled with a wide variety of easily identifiable items like tomatoes, onions, and cabbage. But those odd-shaped objects in varying hues of yellow turned out to be delicious Poona Kheera cucumbers, and the attractive white-and-purple streaked eggplants went by the lively name of Calliope.

There were some mysterious and very large curved green objects under a table. When a bystander asked what they were, Geyser Farm owner and market manager Mark Rehder cracked one open and handed around samples to the curious. Turns out they were overgrown English cucumbers. They still tasted delicious, but the customers tempted by Mark's on-the-spot decision to sell them for $2 each staggered slightly as they walked away with their purchases. The one I bought was 2 feet long!

customer comparing Poona Kheera (left) and English (right) cucumbers; tough decision

Matthew of 3 Fiddles Farm described his produce as "100% natural and super-nutritious." Like many farmers you will meet at the markets, Matthew follows strict organic practices on his farm. But it is against the law to label produce as "organic" unless you have filled out seemingly endless piles of paperwork to obtain official USDA organic certification. Many small farmers do not have time for this. They're busy making sure pests aren't eating their pesticide-free crops.

Matthew also reminded me of what many farmers have told me, that selling perishable crops at a farmers market has its bad side as well as its good side. Consumers get to meet the people who grow the food they buy and eat, and farmers get a decent price for their labor. But all too often much of the produce has to be taken home again to be sold at another market, eaten by the farming family, given away to a local food bank, or composted.

How lovely it would be if everyone could buy all the produce they needed for the week at a farmers market.

If you find yourself on your way to Yellowstone Park on a Saturday morning, drive through Livingston to pick up some fresh veggies for snacks along the way. Or simply make a special trip to visit this well-stocked market.

Depot Farmers Market
Next to the Depot, West Park Street
runs during growing season
Saturday, 9 am - noon

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