It is no secret that I love hanging out with the Zilke's and spending time shopping their farmstand. Over Labor Day weekend, I had the privilege of helping them out at the stand on my two days off (Friday and Monday) in order to give them a little freedom on those days. It was a welcome respite for me as well. I got to spend the days surrounded by gorgeous produce and in the company of some truly superb folks.
Friday was a very hot day. Nearly 100 degrees Farenheit, it was sweltering when there was no breeze. I can't say that I minded it in the least. The customers were wonderful and gobbling up the corn as fast as we could stock it on the shelf. It was interesting to watch folks choose what they wanted fresh for their holiday get-togethers. Helping them find the right, fresh, delicious produce to make their meals special was a ton of fun and immensely rewarding.
This time of year, the colors of the produce are enchanting. Everything is so vivid and vibrant, like a beautiful prelude to the finale of autumnal colors. Crisp green, firey red, bright orange and multiple hues of yellow peppers made for striking displays. Their aroma made me want to get cooking as soon as I got home!
The Zilke's also put together fresh salsa baskets for the convenience of their customers. Several folks found these to be a handy alternative to thinking through and picking out the ingredients individually.
Another bright spot in the harvest season...POTATOES were freshly dug. Pretty reds and whites filled baskets and begged to be cooked with.
|Locally grown seeded watermelon
Second, if they cannot/do not grow it themselves, they find someone locally who adheres to their standards of practice and source the items from those folks. For example, another member of their family grows amazing and delicious melons, which I may have mentioned before. Their cantaloupe are out of this world and the watermelon equally delicious. Zilke's did not plant watermelon in mass this year, so they sourced them from family and keep the produce local.
The same is true of the much sought after sweet corn. Again, another family member grows delicious bi-color sweet corn in bulk and provides it locally to the farm stand. People were coming from all over the area for the corn they knew they had to have for the weekend. Many folks were buying it 5-10 dozen ears at a time to put up for the winter. Some were freezing, many were canning both whole kernel and cream style. The folks who shop locally like this are such friendly people. It was wonderful to learn more about my "neighbors" by spending time with them in this way.
I spent Saturday and Sunday of the weekend toiling away in the kitchen canning, but was eager to get back to the farm stand for the Monday holiday. After standing in the kitchen for two solid days at the stove over the hot canner, it was a welcome break!
|Leaf Lettuce freshly harvested
Seeing the produce being harvested each day is proof that this food can't get any fresher. Mr. Z cut a fresh tray of beautiful bright green leaf lettuce, bringing it in ready for packaging and sale. Mrs. Z came in from the field with an armload of newly dug turnips as well. All day, every day, there is something either ready for harvest or being brought to the stand from the fields or a local grower to be displayed and sold.
If it sounds like I am using a lot of pretty, over the top descriptors about the stand and the produce, you are right. Why? Because I believe every word of it. I am proud of these folks and what they are doing. I am excited that the locals are supporting the Zilke's in their endeavor and that people are finally gaining regular access to healthfully grown, fresh, nutritious, local food.
Having spent some time helping at the stand, I have a real appreciation for the labor of love that is involved and a true sense of privilege for being a part of it. I have ready access to healthy, locally grown produce whenever I need it and in quantities conducive to preserving and canning for the winter. The greatest blessing of them all is that I am now extraordinarily lucky to call these folks my friends.
I will close with some pictures of the gorgeous tomatoes that graced the stand the weekend I helped out.
The rare treat for locals, green tomatoes, looked lovely in their baskets. Behind them on the stand were some beautiful heirlooms that Mrs. Z calls the "ugly" tomatoes. :-) Lastly, we had a nice assortment of ripe and ready slicers/canners.