Farmer’s Market Table Manners

written by Ilene Ross
photos by Gina Weathersby

If I’m not traveling, Saturday means a trip to Findlay Market. It fulfills all of my weekend needs. What could be a monotonous 20-minute robot-like spree through a fluorescent lit grocery store becomes an unhurried day of shopping, eating, and socializing in the sunshine. These leisurely days are made especially enjoyable because of the relationships I’ve built up over the years with the farmers, shopkeepers, and vendors. The interaction with the people who grow and produce our food is invaluable, and it’s exactly the reason why I choose to shop here as opposed to mindlessly pushing a metal cart down big box store aisles. I especially cherish the fact that my children know how to buy meat from a butcher, and not from under plastic. The social skills they learn from interacting with people while we do our errands are instrumental in forming their character, as well as their self-esteem.
Our local farmers are some of the hardest working people I know, and they’re exceedingly knowledgeable about what they grow as well as how to utilize it. If it weren’t for farmers, we would have no food, and they deserve our utmost respect. If you’re not a frequent market shopper, I urge you to become one, at least on a part-time basis. There is still plenty of produce to be found during the fall season, and most of the farmers will be Findlay until Thanksgiving.

Ok, so now that you’ve decided to become a regular at your local market, there are some simple rules of etiquette to keep in mind while shopping. I’ve compiled a list of these-some come from the farmers themselves- as well as some hints I think will help you enjoy your day. But, most of all, I urge you to slow down your pace, enjoy the experience, and take it all in. The sights, sounds, and smells of the market are what will make it the high point of your week.

•    DO sample before you buy. But only the samples that are offered to you. That’s what they are there for. Farmers and other vendors are justly proud of their wares and love for you to try before you buy. Also, it’s the best way to know that you’re going to like the products you’re getting for your hard earned dollars.

•    But, DON’T be the person who samples everything in the market if you have no intention of making a purchase. Farmers are there to make money, and food used for samples is food that obviously can’t be sold. Also, I think we all know that if you sample something out of a particular box or carton, that’s the one you buy, right?

•    Bring your own bags. *Note, Some markets have banned plastic bags, so check websites before you head out the door.

•    Have your money ready, make your purchase, and get out of the way. Conversation is wonderful-that’s exactly why you’re here- but attempting to monopolize a vendor during peak market hours means less business for them, and pissed off people behind you. Want to enjoy a leisurely chat? Wait until the line has died down, or arrive later in
the day, but, not so late that you’re holding up a much anticipated departure. Better yet, make yourself useful and chat while helping your favorite farmer pack up.

•    Please corral your baby stroller, meandering toddler, dogs, market carts, wandering Grandma, etc. In other words, round up your large group and try not to block the aisles. But, honestly, it really is best to just leave your canine friends at home. Dogs have been known to pee on low lying displays, get underfoot, and, as one of my favorite Findlay shop owners recently told me, her dog has been known to snatch baguettes right out of unwitting shopper’s market baskets. You’ve been warned.

•    Get off your phone and respect the vendor. Look them in the eye while paying and don’t just throw the money on the table. So rude.

•    Arrive with small bills, especially $1s and $5s, particularly if you arrive early in the day. Don’t try to pay for a $1 purchase with a $100 bill.  Exact change is always appreciated as well. Some vendors are now using credit and debit cards via the Square, but keep in mind that they have to pay a percentage for each of those purchases. Cash is always king to a small business owner. Farmers have very slim margins to begin with, and any place they can save money can mean savings for you as well.

•    Respect the posted hours of the market. In the morning, farmers and vendors need time to set up and display their wares. At the end of the day, they want to pack up as quickly as possible and get home. Pretend that the farm stand has a locked door just like any other retail environment. Does Biggs let you in before they officially open because you have to get to your son’s soccer game? NO.

•    Don’t squeeze, poke, prod, caress, fondle, massage, and or otherwise touch the produce. Delicate items like tomatoes and peaches bruise quite easily, and nobody wants to be the one to purchase items that have been manhandled. Damaged goods are lost revenue.

•    Unless a farmer provides a bin especially designed for this purpose, do NOT shuck the corn at the market. I repeat, do NOT shuck the corn at the market. It makes a huge mess, and honestly, your corn will stay fresher until you get home.

•    Keep in mind that the prices at markets might not necessarily be cheaper than the grocery store, but, keep your complaining to yourself, and remember that what you’re buying is the freshest, most nutrient dense produce possible, grown by people you know and trust. You’re also paying for variety, taste, and cost of labor. As with all things in life, you get what you pay for. When it comes to bargaining, would you do that at Kroger? No, I didn’t think so. Unless the farmer offers you a better price towards the end of the day or on a bulk purchase, no haggling allowed.

•    Try new things and be flexible. The market is a great place to try heirloom varieties of vegetables you would never see at grocery stores. They might not look like what you’re used to seeing, but the flavor and freshness is incomparable. If you arrived with a recipe for peach crisp, only to find no peaches, go for the plums, they’ll work just as well. How will you know? Just ask, especially when it comes to preparing the fruits and vegetables. Most of the farmers I know are superior cooks and excel at canning and preserving their own produce. They’re usually delighted to share their knowledge.

•    Be kind and polite. Again, as I said above, farmers work harder than anyone I know to produce the food that we eat. Do NOT disparage someone’s produce. Do NOT complain that someone’s prices are better than someone else’s. Do not EVER leave your garbage on somebody’s market stand. EVER. Pay compliments. Everyone loves to hear how much you’ve enjoyed the “fruits” of their labor. Especially farmers.

•    Respect the growing season. Plan your menus by the calendar and you’ll find the best that nature has to offer. Not sure what’s in season? I love this simple to use site with its colorful chart http://madebysa.com/food/

•    Go early in the day for the best selection and become a regular. Your favorite vendor will save goodies for you and even message you when something special is coming in. Are you someone who does a lot of canning? Guess what? Some farmers might even grow a specific variety just for you if you plan to buy in bulk. That certainly doesn’t happen at Meijer.

•    Bring a cooler bag. You’ll want to keep your items fresh while you shop, and then after while you’re hanging out with friends over a beer in the OTR Biergarten.

 

Bluegrass for Babies

On their day off, most chefs would prefer relaxing at home as opposed to slaving over a piping hot grill on a steamy summer day. But, entice them with the opportunity to hang with a group of their peers swapping “war stories”, outdoing each other with their extraordinary cooking prowess, and drinking cold beer, all while supporting an extremely worthwhile charity, and they’ll show up in droves.
Bluegrass for Babies is just such a cause.  Founded in 2009, the organization educates parents on how to raise healthy children by providing tools and resources based in both traditional and holistic practices. Year-round special events grounded in a love of bluegrass music provide much needed fundraising dollars which benefit the Perinatal Institute of Cincinnati Children’s.
For their Midsummer Harvest at Evendale’s pastoral Gorman Heritage Farm, Bluegrass for Babies gathered some of Cincinnati’s finest chefs, mixologists, and Gorman staff for an afternoon in the country full of good food, music, and farm education. Guests were welcomed in the garden by the sounds of Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers, as well as appetizers from Chefs Chase Blowers of Dutch’s and Daniel Wright of Abigail Street, and beverages from Molly Wellman and the boys from Mad Tree Brewery and Oakley Wines.
The lavish buffet lunch, served on white linen draped communal tables was the culmination of over a dozen of Cincinnati’s finest chefs, local farmers, and purveyors. Organizing and “wrangling” this enormous group of talent fell into the laps of Chef Jose Salazar and his wife Ann. After the guests had their fill, (with, as you can imagine, most going back two to three times) Dr. Louis Muglia, Director of the Center for the Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s, shared details on the ground-breaking developments of his organization. Guests asked questions and left very well sated indeed. If they’re like us, they went home and took a much needed nap.
Written by Ilene Ross
Photography ©Gina Weathersby

Taking a walk ~ with Abby Artemisia

You may be noticing that the leaves are off the trees in this post, and yet it is almost the middle of June outside. That’s because Ilene and I worked on this story ~ that appeared in CityBeat’s April Green Edition ~
back in February, but we had a few more images from the day that we wanted to share on our blog. Be sure to read Ilene’s full story {here} as she is, among wearing many other culinary hats, also a contributing writer for CityBeat’s food column.
Her article is on outdoor edibles and our guide on this brisk winter morning was the wonderful Abby Artemisia, a botanist, herbalist, native plant specialist, who feels that her life’s purpose is ‘to connect or reconnect people with nature to create healing for humanity and the Earth and to empower people with their own health naturally.’

We accompanied Abby on a walk through College Hill’s LaBoiteaux Woods learning the finer points of foraging edibles.
Admittedly, I am pretty new to this and was surprised at how much of what we saw was edible and/or medicinal. The most important rule to walk away with is unless you KNOW what you are foraging, DON’T eat it.
Be sure to read all of Abby’s rules in the article, another of which is to, of course, RESPECT MOTHER NATURE.
She leads a “Friday Frolic in the Forest” walk in LaBoiteaux Woods weekly. For more information, contact Abby directly at abbyartemisia@gmail.com/513.307.5226.

Thank you, Abby, for sharing your knowledge, wisdom, and a few tasty treats from the ground with us on that brisk winter morning.

Spicebush buds (above, right).

Woodmint.

Multiflora Rosehips (left) and more Spicebush (right).

Mellein (left side), Chickweed (top right and bottom middle), Woodmint growing on a tree root (bottom right).

Abby’s pin….a Lotus flower;)

513{eats} (fabulous) contributing media designer, Eric Hintz, just happened to tag along on one of Abby’s Walk’s in the Forest. This is what he saw….{just click on the image below}

{Wrap up} of a Food Photography Workshop

For months I had ideas of a workshop churning in my head followed by months of making lists of what to cover, how to cover it, what to bring, where to hold it, what to serve at it, my expectations, the attendees expectations…
There is so much that goes into preparing to teach and share not just through talking, but through hands on and doing.  It was so important to me that every single person leave the workshop having done one or all of:
overcoming a fear, learning something (of value) new, pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, understanding the importance of the fundamentals, the art and the design aspects of photography, of their story, of their journey and how it makes their work authentic, of creating community through working together, being open and sharing, putting the elements into action by looking at their subjects with new eyes, and by having been empowered and inspired to keep practicing, creating and learning on their own. I wanted to provide an environment where everyone would be relaxed and open to sharing and growing. I wanted to be an open book in every way.
No walls, no big secrets (there are none.)
Those were my goals.

Looking back over that checklist list, photos, emails and conversations afterwards, and my memory of the day, my favorite parts from the workshop would read like this:

  • FIRST & FOREMOST, the creative, intelligent, attentive, determined, collaborative woman who joined in, listened, watched, learned, and put into practice what they learned. Their warmth, smiles, participation, head nods and mere presence were inspiring as a group and (also) to me, far more than they are most likely aware.
  • The absolutely PERFECT setting for this workshop. Many thanks to Marti Heard, of 915 Monmouth Street, for generously letting us use her light filled, textured/weathered/colorful/eclectic/gorgeous studio as our setting. Honestly, I could not have asked for more. The mere atmosphere paired beautifully with the style of rustic, textural undertones of natural light food photography I lean towards and was teaching.
  • Renee Schuler and all the crew at eat well celebrations and feasts for catering the workshop with their fabulous spreads, big smiles and extra styled dishes to photograph.
  • My beautiful shutter sister, crazy talented photographer, and friend Peggy Joseph, who shared with us both her expertise and artful eye, and joined us for the hands on shooting all afternoon.

Below are some images from our day ~ from a few iphone and camera picts to images Peggy was sweet enough to document from the afternoon~while everyone was busy practicing and creating;)

It was fun to see all the vessels, fabrics, surfaces, props, and food set out on the enormous antique wooden printer’s table. Lots and lots of choices to be made be everyone, a little later on.

The morning was spent going over all the elements involved in creating an image from both a technical and artistic point of view. We picked everything apart and looked at them individually to understand how, why, and when they worked into telling a story.

The afternoon was time to apply what we covered {with assignments.}
I was so impressed with how these women pushed themselves and explored so many of the concepts we discussed earlier. Taking time to carefully consider light, props, angles, compositions, etc.
It’s much easier to dive in, but to create an environment and voice to an image, takes discipline, patience, and thought.

Did I mention how beautiful the light was? Floor to ceiling front banks of windows across the whole front span of the studio mixed with to die for textures and colour everywhere. Have I already said THANK YOU?!

As everyone uploaded their images and started making selections and adjustments, I was so impressed to see the imagery and parts to their stories they had been working on. In the short time we were together, I could see a part of each of their personalities coming through in their stories/images…which, in my opinion, is the only element that makes each of our work unique.

I’ve also been excited to see how everyone ended up putting their ‘stories’ together ‘visually’ on their blogs, as we discussed the importance of laying the images out in a story form as well.
I’ll come back and add everyone’s links as they finish up.
Vanessa of Nessy Designs was the first to get her post up. Here is a beautiful image and example of integrating imagery and text ~ you can see so many more of her images from the workshop on her blog.


Thank you, again, Mary Ann, Judy, Karyn, Ileana, Amy, Jamie, Vanessa, and Jill for coming out, being open, sharing with all, and spending the day together learning!
xo Gina

*The studio at 915 Monmouth houses 5 fabulously creative women ~Marti’s Floral Design, five dot design, CINCY EVENT PLANNING, jmm Photography, and CINCI MAKEUP AND the studio is regularly offered as an event space.
I can not recommend it enough.
Please contact Marti Heard at martisfloraldesign@gmail.com for more information.
*If you would like to be added to the email list for future workshops and events, send me an email at gina @513eats.com.

Networking with Your Peers and Sharing a {Seattle Workshop}

While in Seattle this past September, I met up with a fellow food photographer. A fabulously creative food photographer named Clare Barboza. You can browse her work and quickly understand what I mean. One of the first things I noticed, is that she, like me, loves to tell a story. There are all kinds of ways to get there, and I was drawn to her particular way. We exchanged a few emails here and there and when I knew I would be in her home town, I was hoping to meet up in person. My visit came at a busy time for Clare, but she made space and we did, in fact, meet up for a wonderful visit at the yummy Macrina Bakery.
Some wonder why I, or anyone, might want to ‘be friendly’ with someone in the very same profession as myself. Aren’t they the competition? Won’t they try and take your clients away? Won’t they try and get all of your secrets? Fair questions…if you’re a fear driven ‘island’ type of person. I’m not. I’m of the ‘let’s all play together’ type of person. My feeling is that our professional life (as well as life in general) is richer through connecting and sharing (not to mention fun) with honesty and integrity. If you are running your business from a place of authenticity, ten people may very well do or offer the same product or service, but there will be a difference between each and that authentic difference is what will attract their like minded market/clients. Therein lies the beauty of connecting.  We grow, learn and are inspired through relationships. Here’s to sharing, collaborating, networking and making new friends.

So, having said all this, I’d love to share with you a farm to table workshop that my friend and fellow food photographer Clare Barboza is holding on the majestically beautiful Whidbey Island, WA this May 23-26. Let me just say…what a treat it will be and how I WISH I WERE ABLE TO ATTEND!
If you are lucky enough to go, and it came from this post, please be sure to tell Clare hello from me!
Here is her blog post link with all the information as well as the registration link.
Clare has given this workshop several times now, so you can look through her blog and see the amazing imagery from the farms and markets that will be visited. Here are a few of Clare’s photos to get you started:

photos ©Clare Barboza

 

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