Niagara Gazette

August 21, 2013

APRONS READY: Finding a great farm stand

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — When I go to the grocery store I find that I buy what’s on sale, not what’s in season. When I visit a farm stand, I want to buy fruit and vegetables that were picked that morning. 

Growing up on a farm I ate vegetables in the garden while I was picking them. Corn on the cob was picked, husked and placed in the cooking pot right in the field. For the best flavor, buy what’s in season at your local farm stand and in the grocery store.

Finding a farm stand that fits you best can take a little research. You can ask friends which farm stands they like to shop at, you can pick a farm stand that is near your home or work, or you can look them up on the internet. 

I found the McCollum Orchard (www.oldfarmnewlife.com) online and was surprised to see that they are located near my work. 

McCollum Orchard of Lockport grows organic produce from seed. The current owners, Bree and Rich Woodbridge, are the sixth generation to work the farm, which was established in the 1820s.

When I arrived at the farm, I was surprised to find a large parking area and was greeted by a very friendly little dog. I introduced myself to Bree asking if I could write about them and take pictures.

Bree told me about their farm and Rich gave me a tour. He showed me the heirloom orchard with 100-year-old pear trees, the hops crop and their new addition of chickens. At the all-organic farm stand, I bought lovage, Egyptian walking onion, rainbow chard and belstar broccoli to stir-fry in olive oil with organic carrots that I had a home. I served the vegetables with fish. 

The fresh, organic vegetables cooked up beautifully and the flavor was outstanding. If you have never tried organic vegetables you should. They have a “true” flavor that is something to savor, especially when fresh.

When you visit a farm stand, bringing your own bags simplifies things but is not necessary. Be sure to bring small bills. I have only been to one farm stand that takes credit cards but with the popularity of smart phones I’m sure there will be more each year. 

The most important part of going to a farm stand is to talk to the farmer. I consider myself an experimental cook and I’m willing to try new vegetables. At the McCollum stand I was introduced to lovage (tastes like celery) and Egyptian walking onions. Lovage became an instant favorite and I’m still not sure about the Egyptian walking onions. The small onion bulbs have a sweet onion flavor like a shallot but the stems were woody when I cooked them the first time. The second time I used large 2-inch pieces of the stem so I had the flavor in the dish but could remove them before serving. 

Niagara County has numerous farm stands. If you don’t have one near your home or place of business, make it a weekly family outing to visit a farm stand. Take the time to support the small farms in Niagara County. 

Jennifer Grier works with Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play. It is a five year grant awarded by the New York State Department of Health to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County. The grant aims to prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases among the people of Niagara Falls by making it easier to be physically active and to eat more healthy foods. CCE Niagara County provides equal program and employment opportunities.