Ashland, Va. Farmers' Market
This morning, we made the trip to the weekly farmers' market in the town of Ashland, about 30 miles from where we live. During the winter, I had visited what they call the renegade or outlaw or something like that market where a couple of meat vendors set up for a few hours every other weekend in the off season. This was my first time going to a full fledged market.
They set up in a small grassy area behind the town hall. There were probably two dozen tents. Most selling your usual tomatoes, squashes and zucchinis, but quite a few had exotics like miniature striped eggplant and giant Iraqi eggplants, different types of squashes, and a number of melons. At some farmers' markets, you get a dude who drives his stakebed pickup down to North Carolina each week and comes back with bushels of green beans and watermelons. At this market, all were locally grown by the people who were selling them.
Several farms had pastured chicken eggs, and others had different meats. We ended up buying a bunch of grassfed, pastured beef, some free range chicken, and a pack of sweet Italian sausages from two different farms. We also got a nice bag of zucchinis and a pack of raspberries. I picked up two sugar baby watermelons, then had to call the police...
You see, back in 98 or 99, when I was living in a rented farmhouse, the landlord lived next door. One day he brought us over two sugar baby watermelons... one for me and one for my roommate. I've never been a huge fan of watermelon and had never even heard of a sugar baby. A couple days later I tried mine and it was the best thing I had tasted in a long time. In fact, I liked it so much I also ate my roommate's. He came home from work that afternoon with a hankering for his sugar baby only to find that I had eaten it. Over the past 13-14 years, we've stayed close friends, but from time to time he jokingly brings up his sugar baby that I stole. Fast forward to today. He is a police officer in Ashland. When I found some nice looking sugar babies, I bought two and the called him on his cell phone to see if he was working this morning. He said he was, so I told him to come by the market because I had something for him. We waited for him at the Jeep, and when he walked up, I thrust a plastic bag holding a melon at him and loudly said, "The feud ends, NOW!" He immediately knew that I bought him a sugar baby, but I imagine to a tongue wagging, small town gossip gal, it might have looked like I was handing a cop a head in a bag and telling him I had killed my neighbor or something. As my wife said when I told her that, it's fun in my world.
Anyway, if you haven't checked out your nearest farmers' market, you ought to give it a try. According to the USDA, last year there were over 7,100 farmers' markets in the US, an increase of 17% from 2010. You can use this search tool to find a market near you with the products you want.