May 15, 2009
Veggies, and chickens made from gourds, oh boy!
Another day, another farmers' market. If we keep meeting like this, we might get healthy!
The West Racine Farmers' Market opened its summer season this morning -- yes it was cold but at least the threatened thunderstorms held off. Nine farmers had made the trek and were selling a variety of early-season produce: rhubarb, parsnips, chive, green onions, asparagus. And jumbo eggs, dried goods, honey and flowers.
It was an auspicious start, as the community now has the opportunity to purchase morning-picked produce four days a week: Tuesday and Friday mornings in West Racine, Saturday mornings downtown, and Wednesday afternoon back in West Racine.
Scott Piper, of Piper Farms south of Chicory Road on Lathrop, was teaching a customer Parsnips 101 when I arrived. "Are the greens good for anything?" she asked. "Just compost," he replied.
Piper comes from a farm family -- his great-grandfather assembled the 150 acres his family once owned. They're down to 10 acres now, having sold most of the land for housing developments that have not yet taken place. "My dad is 75 and didn't want to farm anymore." But, in fact, some of the land -- not yet paid for -- may come back to the family; which Piper indicated would be a good thing. In any case, he's put Dad back to work again.
For now he farms the land that's left, having foresaken a career doing architectural home design ... a business that's not exactly sprouting in this economy. Scott lives in Madison, but "migrates here" for the summer. The Pipers also farm a few acres borrowed from a neighbor, Dell Bredeman, who admits to being only a "hobby farmer." But Scott is serious about it, and is in the third year of the three-year organic certification process.
This morning was a "good day," he said, especially considering that he's still planting most of the crops he hopes to sell this summer; the green beans, wax beans and yellow golden beets that won't start coming to market before mid-June.
Another stand that caught my eye belonged to Pine Hill Farm in Sturtevant. I passed on their last bunch of asparagus, but stopped to admire a couple of chickens on the counter -- made from gourds! Hub Braun, 85, makes them, along with other sculptures -- Agourdian music, anyone? -- from discarded vegetable parts. The chickens were just $6.
If you go: the West Racine Farmers' Market is located in the 3100 block of Washington Ave. The Downtown market is in the Case parking lot off State Street.