Saturday, August 30, 2014

Absarokee: one-day farmers market wonder

One day a year the Absarokee farmers market blooms.

About 40 vendors gather on the lawn of the Cobblestone School at the south end of town to participate in a fund-raiser for the preservation of the unusual building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. You can learn more about this at the Cobblestone School website.

Today was stormy and when I arrived I was told that a strong wind had blown down enough awnings that many of the vendors left early. By mid-morning the 10 or so who remained were doing a brisk business.

Inside the historic schoolhouse a quilt show offered refuge to those who wanted to avoid occasional rain sprinkles. Downstairs breakfast was being served, and around noon, an outdoor barbecue would be grilling hot dogs and hamburgers.

Outside, there was a festive atmosphere despite the looming storm clouds. Strolling musicians livened up the day considerably. Somehow that bass made its way around the market along with the fiddle, mandolin, and guitars.

This farmers market excelled at offering the best of area produce.

Maureen from down the road in Fishtail had late-season rhubarb and a mouthwatering selection of canned relishes and sauces.

Next to her were a young couple who raise vegetables in their small garden just down the street. This was their first farmers market ever, and they were enjoying their success. A wheelbarrow of freshly picked corn sold out quickly, and the carrots and herbs were going pretty fast, too.

Everything looked so bright and tasty, you really didn't need to wonder where the baked goods were at this market. A sweet purple carrot would do nicely.

The Absarokee farmers market is always the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, 8 am to 1 pm, so you can mark your 2015 calendar now.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Three Forks farmers market

There was a truckload of corn along with a whole lot of other good stuff at the Three Forks farmers market, now in its second year.

In case you're wondering, Three Forks does not refer to food but was named for the three forks of the Missouri River that take off from here to follow their own paths. The Lewis and Clark expedition lingered in 1805 while they calculated which was the best way to go and while they were at it named the two extra rivers the Madison and the Gallatin.

If you want to spend some time here, right across the street from the farmers market is the famed Sacajawea Hotel, where a weary modern traveler can rock on the porch and enjoy a glass of spa water (icy water infused with lemon) on the house.

Across another street within sight of the market is the visitors center, located in a brightly colored caboose, where you can learn more about the Lewis and Clark expedition and the area in general, as well as rest your feet inside while listening to stories of the town told by the friendly volunteer staff and perhaps a visiting resident. There's nothing like freshly spun gossip to make you feel like you've really gotten to know the town.

Meanwhile, back at the market, a wide selection of goods are sold by the 15 or so vendors who come each week.

There are tasty baked goods.

And lots of wonderful produce.

And other fun things.

As I was leaving, a fiddler showed up and the toe-tapping melodies seemed to be just what was needed to round out the festivities.

Three Forks Farmers Market
Veterans Park, corner of E. Neal St. and N. Main St.
July 10 - October 2
Thursday, 4 pm to 7 pm

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Awesome Huntley farmers market

You rarely read a bad word here about a farmers market. I get so excited to be at one, I can hardly see anything wrong with it.

But every once in a while I find one that is really outstanding, even better than the other great Montana markets.

That was the case with the Huntley farmers market today.

For one thing, look at the photo above: this family provided homemade cookies and refreshing lemonade (pink and "regular") and seved it with big smiles. Aren't those smiles alone worth a million bucks?

It was a hot afternoon, so I also sampled the ice tea from another vendor, who was raising money for a school trip to Washington, D.C. Her brother was "just helping out," but he couldn't help smiling as if he were going on the trip, too.

Huntley is part of the Huntley Project, a valley area that also includes the towns of Ballantine, Pompeys Pillar, and Worden. In 1907 the US Bureau of Reclamation created the first and most successful irrigation project, which took water from the Yellowstone River and distributed it throughout the valley via canals.

I didn't ask, but I wonder if this is why there were so many vegetables at this small market, with its 20 vendors today. I especially liked the heirloom varieties, which you often see at farmers markets. These are lemon cucumbers (left) and Boothby's Blonde cucumbers. Very tasty.

The vendor above told me he was being assisted by his "great" great grandson, who also helps tend the garden.

I chatted with David for a bit, who proudly described the care he puts into creating sturdy and decorative boxes and who also has time to grown onions. He said he likes to garden but has decided that onions are fairly easy to grow and popular with customers, so he specializes in them.

At the next table was Dave, who has a passion for jerky. If you eat his, you will, too. After sampling and learning about all the work that goes into producing the jerky, I had to buy some. It takes 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of meat (the leaner the better; Dave uses London broil) to produce 1 pound of jerky. Plus, you have to keep the meat from drying out too much and being too salty. Dave's is moist yet chewy. Dave says it's a hobby for him, that he loves selling his jerky at the market "to see people smile."

Of course there were baked goods, too.

And lots of lovely canned goods. This vendor told me that tourists passing through are great customers, with the pickles being the most popular purchase. Some folks call ahead if they can and ask for their favorites to be set aside. There are a lot of canned goods in this photo, but they will likely all be sold by the end of the evening.

And something you rarely see at farmers markets: catnip. I was told it also makes a soothing tea to help human go to sleep. Funny how it has the opposite effect on cats.

So now I hope you can see why I enjoyed this market so much. Why not stop by and meet these folks yourself?

Huntley Farmers Market
Barkemeyer Park,  Northern Ave.
July - September
Thursdays, 4 pm - 7 pm