By Lindsay Courcelle
On Saturday, Rutland’s Vermont Farmers Market moved indoors to the Vermont Farmers Food Center on West Street. The huge industrial building is now a hub of agriculture and crafts for our region.
Over 70 vendors attended on Saturday, selling a huge diversity of goods. There were familiar faces amongst the vendors, but many new booths as well. I chatted with a mere handful of vendors to get a snapshot of what’s new at Rutland’s Winter Farmers Market. Of course, the best way to discover all of the secrets of the market is to come see for yourself!
Yoder Farm is back and stocked full of beans, apple cider vinegar, and maple popcorn. New partnerships with Windfall Orchards and Mendon Mountain Orchards have resulted in three varieties of applesauce. Each has a different shade of pink and the flavors vary in sweetness and tartness. I bought a case of their applesauce last year and never regretted it. It was a delicious and healthy dessert or complement to any meal.
Breezy Meadows Orchard & Nursery is another returning vendor with a new product to share: locally grown rice. The rice project was made possible through a successful Kickstarter campaign, allowing Breezy Meadows to form an acre of rice paddies on their land in Tinmouth. Having visited during the summer months, I can attest to the idyllic scene of rice growing on a Vermont hillside, and I can’t wait to taste it!
Nearby, the sun was shining into the big windows, illuminating colorful glass orbs at Grace Glass. Zachary Grace creates functional glassware and bowls, including some with mini copper sculptures encased in the glass. The colors and forms are truly awesome. Grace spoke poetically about how drinking from an individual and unique glass, one made with love, is like eating high quality, locally grown food. A tall glass of cider was sounding mighty tasty at that moment.
Across the aisle at Windfall Orchards, cider was bountiful, as were six or eight varieties of apples with names like Winter Banana, Black Gillyflower, and Golden Russet. Windfall has three beverages crafted creatively from local apples. Their Ice Cider is deliciously sweet and made from their own apples. Their Orleans bitters are unique, tinctured with dandelion and gentian, a wildflower. This is a perfect gift for the Old-Fashioned and Manhattan lovers out there. The Orleans herbal has similarly complex flavors and features basil and anise hyssop, a warming herb good for both the digestive and respiratory systems.
Another fermentation specialist is right down the way, Chrysalis Cultures, selling raw artisan kraut. Their sauerkraut is lacto-fermented, a type of fermentation common in many cultures traditionally. It is extremely beneficial for healthy bacteria in your gut, similar to yogurt. The business was built out of co-owner Christina Cunningham’s work as a health coach, specifically focusing on gastrointestinal wellness. Their four varieties of kraut are available for sample, of which the Dill & Garlic is my favorite. Chrysalis is teaching a Sauerkraut 101 workshop on November 13 from 6-7:30 at Green Mountain College for those curious about kraut making.
Plew Farm, a new vendor at the winter market, features pastured pork, chicken, turkey, and beef, plus maple and a smattering of canned goods. One unique product at Plew Farm is the dehydrated chicken feet, which has become a popular dog treat for Plew’s customers. I was impressed that the farm found a use for a by-product like chicken feet, which all too often end up unused despite being a good source of nutrition for our canine friends.
In the prepared food realm, several vendors are upping the ante with new hot food offerings. I tried a tasty Moroccan curry from 153 Sandwiches, topped with their signature cashew cream. Owner Dimitar Atanasov is friendly and sincere, sharing that he tries to use as many local and organic ingredients as possible for his vegan offerings. In the coming weeks, he will feature hot soups and dishes like creamy kale pasta.
As I spoke with vendors, I was reminded about the unique opportunity that customers have to ask questions of their local food producers. Though many farmers use organic methods, not all do. And though many prepared food vendors utilize local ingredients, not all do. If you have food criteria you are trying to meet, be sure to ask those simple questions of the vendors. Your voice and your wallet can make a difference, especially on a local scale. And that is the magic of the farmers market!
Lindsay Courcelle and her husband Scott own Alchemy Gardens, a farm business growing vegetables and herbs in West Rutland. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.