Farmer Talent Show to Benefit the Madison Farmers’ Market

I’m donning my hat as Director of the Madison Farmers’ Market for this post, to unabashedly promote the market and our upcoming “Farmer Talent Show”.

madison farmers market
The Madison Farmers’ Market is held Saturdays May through October, 9 to1 at the Main Street Park in Madison, Maine.

It was a selfish endeavor, really─when I undertook to organize a farmers’ market in my rural hometown of Madison, Maine. I was a beginning farmer looking for a market close-to-home where I could sell my products to the community. The Madison Farmers’ Market is going into it’s 6th year now and it has become one of the most positive things in my life: a community of fellow farmers and caring patrons committed to fresh, nutritious food and to supporting their local economy.

Twenty-Mile Market

In a part of Maine where the loss of manufacturing mills and the waning timber industry has left 12% or more of all households living below the poverty line, I see a return to our agricultural roots as a huge opportunity for the people who live here. We can use agriculture as a means to boost our rural economies. Agriculture can enhance food security, reduce poverty through rural development, and we can even reduce the environmental impact of agricultural production. Pastoral economies need to take responsibility for themselves, promote creative new businesses that can sell to customers from outside the community and the new local food movement opens a lot of doors for those who are willing to think outside the box.

alice loves maine markets
This is Alice! She has a garden of her own, but makes it a point to stop in and visit regularly with our local farmers!

It’s been difficult to attract new farmers to the Madison Farmers’ Market because it is not a big money market like the Portland Farmers’ Market or the Lewiston-Auburn Farmers’ Market. Farmers who are making their weekly paychecks in a single farmers’ market want to join established markets where the customer base is reliable. In Madison, we’ve been faced with educating the community about the benefits and realities of food production as we grow our market in this traditionally conservative rural Maine community. This role is also not something that every farmer wants to take responsibility for.

As a result, the farmers I’ve managed to recruit for our rural farmers’ market are all located within a 20-mile radius of Madison, Maine. They are dedicated to this region because it’s their home, and they’re devoted to the community we’ve cultivated, committed to the support of each other, and together as a group we make up the Madison Farmers’ Market─one of the friendliest markets you’ll ever visit. We just enjoy each other’s company, and we enjoy the time spent outdoors selling our wares, doing what farmers are born to do: feed the people and nurture the Earth.

Accepting SNAP/EBT at the Madison Farmers’ Market has been instrumental in the growth of our community of faithful market-shoppers. Once we began participating in the Maine Harvest Bucks program, the Madison Farmers’ Market really saw a dramatic increase in attendance as low-income families came to take advantage of the “Bonus Bucks”.

Here’s how it Maine Harvest Bucks works:

The program is geared toward increasing the nutritional value of the federal nutrition assistance dollars─SNAP/EBT. It allows those shoppers to buy more healthy food, supports local farmers, and keeps food dollars within the local economy.

Since we serve a part of the state that is economically depressed, the members of the Madison Farmers’ Market are all in consensus that it’s important to be able to offer this program at our market. None of us are getting rich doing this, but we’re serving our community and working in direct support of ourselves and in direct support of the people around us. It all brings a sense of intrinsic reward that lends meaning and value to the farmer.

harvest bucks
The Maine Harvest Bucks program allows SNAP shoppers increased access to fresh, locally produced fruits and vegetables!

Each year, well before the start of the market season, the market applies with the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets to participate in the Maine Harvest Bucks nutrition incentive program. MFFM secures federal funding and various grants for the program, and then redistributes funds to participating markets accordingly. This year however, there is a funding gap and participating markets like Madison’s have had to decide whether or not to temporarily suspend their MHB programs, or to take on the responsibility of raising the funds themselves to cover the costs of the incentive-program.

Members of the Madison Farmers’ Market were adamant that we should do everything we can to keep this program running, and to that end I’ve devised a fundraising strategy to help us raise the $800 dollars the market needs to support the Maine Harvest Bucks incentives─including a really exciting Farmer Talent Show!

talent show
TALENT WANTED: You should do it! You’re pretty cool!

In return for a donation we’re offering a fun-filled show for the whole family, with free popcorn. There will be a raffle and a bake sale, too. I’m working on lining up special Guest Judges, and prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place performances. Already Johnny’s Selected Seeds has donated a tub-trug of garden supplies in response to the flyers I put up about the office, and the emails I sent to the entire company announcing my search for farmers with talent.

Sonia Acevedo from Hide & Go Peep Farm of East Madison, Maine.

We’re looking for farmers and gardeners from across the state of Maine, and especially those who are local to central Maine, to perform in our Farmer Talent Show. Open to any special talent: musicians, singers, dancers, rappers, actors, comedians, magicians and more─and, while we’re putting farmers in the spotlight, the members of the Madison Farmers’ Market are an inclusive group and we would never turn away anyone who wanted to perform.

So far we’ve got 3 acts─including myself with my friend and banjo instructor Ken Hahn. When I told Ken about the upcoming show he offered to play alongside me, and we’ve already picked out 3 songs to polish up before the big event. It’s going to be a really great time, so if you’re reading this and you’re a Maine-resident─and especially if you’re local to Madison and the Somerset County area─be sure to help us spread the word!

Find the Madison Farmers’ Market on Facebook and share our Farmer Talent Show event with friends. OR: share our Talent Wanted graphic (available on our Facebook page) on your timeline to let friends and family in your network know that we’re looking for talented people to perform. Stay tuned for more updates coming soon from Runamuk!

Market garden in progress

My farmers’ tan is a testament to the amount of time I’ve been spending in the market garden lately, working long hours in the sun and in drizzling rain to get crops in the ground.  It’s an on-going process, and there’s also successive sowings to think about–and the fall crops to keep in mind.

So far I’ve managed to get onions in, 3 types of peas, leaf lettuce mix, spinach, 2 types of carrots, 2 varieties of beets, rutabaga, 5 varieties of potatoes, 2 different kinds of snap beans, 12 varieties of tomatoes and 2 of peppers, and some heading lettuce.  And so far things are growing well.

Onions 2014
We have Ailsa Craig for fresh-eating, and Patterson onions for storing.
peas 2014
I’m growing Sugar Ann and Sugar Snap peas–they have the edible pods which are fabulous for snacking or sauteing (so good!), and Little Marvel for shelling peas.

The next two days are dedicated to planting cucumbers with sunflowers, pole beans, and radishes.  Then on to the squashes, followed by broccoli, cabbages, and collards.  And don’t forget all of the allies and friends–the herbs and flowers that either protect the crops, or attract beneficial insects to combat pest problems.

We’re hard at work here at Runamuk–so stay tuned for more updates!

DIY broths from kitchen scraps

finished diy vegetable broth

diy broth from kitchen scrapsI’m one of those people who really loves soups and stews.  A good soup simmering on the stove makes a house feel like home, it offers comfort during stressful times, and it warms you through and through when it’s bitterly cold outside.  In addition to all that–soups offer lots of health benefits since they’re typically made with fresh, low-fat ingredients, contain a minimal amount of salt and extra fats, and provide vitamins like A and C.  And since nothing makes a great soup like a good stock base, I’ve long-since learned to make my own broths to use in my soups and stews.

frozen kitchen scraps for diy vegetable broth
My collection of frozen kitchen scraps.

 

Hint: Making your own broth doesn’t have to cost extra; each time you peel or trim vegetables put the scraps in a ziplock bag in the freezer rather than adding them to your compost bin.  Vegetables store the majority of their flavor–not to mention a host of vitamins–in their skins, so they make superior broths.

What to put in your broth

You can use practically anything to make a delicious broth–from the traditional to the unusual–making soup lends itself to experimentation, so feel free to get creative and try new things.  Save celery leaves and ends, potato and carrot peelings, mushroom and garlic bits, the outer cabbage leaves, lettuce and other greens, uneaten bits of corn, peas, mashed potatoes, squash, rutabaga, beans, rice and other grains–they will all add valuable nutrients and flavor.

The same goes for meats–each time you serve a roast, put the bones, skin and fat trimmings into a designated freezer bag for later use.  Or use the most inexpensive cuts to make a beef broth, use the bones of a roasted chicken, or save the meaty ham bone from your traditional baken ham dinner to make the best pea soup ever!  Be sure to save the broth in the bottom of your roasting pan to add to the mix when you are ready to make your meat-based broth.

How to make the broth

use a meaty ham-bone to make pea soup
I like a good pea soup once in a great while, so I save the bone from a baked ham for just such an occasion!

When you have saved enough scraps to make a good batch of broth place everything in a large stock pot, fill with water and cover.  Bring the stock to a boil for the first few minutes to ensure that any bacteria is killed, then reduce the temperature to a simmer.

Simmer your stock at a low temperature anywhere from 6-8 or 12-24 hours.  The larger the bones the longer you should cook them, until all the marrow and flavor has been extracted.  Then strain the broth to remove then bones–remove any meat remaining on the bone or bones and save for later; for a vegetable broth you will again strain to remove the vegetable peelings, then put the stock through a sieve to remove any remaining bits.  At this point I prefer to put the stock back into the pot and continue to simmer the broth to boil it down, which intensifies the flavor–but this is a personal preference and optional.

Storing your homemade broth

finished diy vegetable broth
Finished vegetable broth cooling on the stove.

 

Once you have achieved the desired flavor with your broth or stock, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool completely before storing.  You can keep your broth in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, or store it in quart-sized ziplock bags and freeze it.  You can even can it to preserve it long-term, and keep it in your pantry or cold-storage facility for later use.

 Conclusion

Making your own broth is a great way to save money; by re-purposing those discarded kitchen scraps you’ll be able to stretch your food budget even further.  Not to mention you’ll have some fabulous broth to make fantastic meals with when you’re finished.  Start saving your kitchen scraps today and give it a try!

Have you made your own broth before?  Have any tips, tricks or hints you’d like to share?  Feel free to leave a comment below!  🙂