A visit to Vermont’s Shelburne Farms

Another sustainability adventure from Cheenius. Thanks for sharing, Cheenius; sounds like a wonderful trip!

Cheenius and Mr. Cheenius ventured north! First stop was Shelburne Farms near Burlington, VT.

Descendants of this Vanderbilt “country house” decided in the 1970s to put their tremendous acreage to work for sustainable agriculture and education:

We believe that soil, plant, animal, environmental and human health are interconnected and that agriculture is the base of a healthy culture and civilization. Our goal is to be a diversified, organic farm that supports a healthy local food system and creates an inspiring learning environment.

Shelburne Farms country house

They have a large herd of dairy cows, make their own cheese, and manage the manure in an amazingly responsible way through a system of field filters. Cheenius was excited to try their cheese, and was impressed with the variety of cheddar they were able to produce through aging or smoking.

Cheese samples

They grow organic produce and raise chickens and goats too. They also have an entire herd of solar panels! Their plan is to be completely energy self-sufficient in the next few years.

Shelburne Farms solar panels

Their main focus is much broader than just another sustainable farm, however. They partner with schools in and out of the area, and have brought THOUSANDS of kids to learn where their food comes from, and about sustainable agriculture in general.

We care about the sustainability and quality of life on earth. We care about young people having hope for the future. We believe that sustainability is grounded in individual awareness and action in our own communities.

Today at the Farmyard
The day we were there they were preparing for kids to come in and bake their own bread — starting with wheat from the field! I’m sure later they were going to smear homemade butter on it, and probably sing this song:

The Butter Song

Shelburne Farms offers visitors a Welcome Center and Farm Store, and general admission to the property gets you access to walking trails, a Children’s Farmyard, and cheesemaking viewing. For the ultimate Shelburne experience, stay at the Inn and have dinner at the restaurant:

At one of Vermont’s premier farm-to-table restaurants, our menu items are built around what’s being harvested in our Market Garden or from area farms on any given day or week.

Have you been to Shelburne Farms? Let us know in the comments!

Highland County Maple Festival: “I’d Tap That!”

Guest post by Buzzy! Thanks, Buzzy! Where’s my maple donut??

Buzzy and Mr. Buzzy were finally able to realize a life-long dream:  attending the annual Highland County Maple Festival just an hour and a half away!  So many activities and events! I won’t go into the magic of the entertainment

Greene County Cloggers

Or the impressive junk food options

Funnel cakes and fried oreos

Or even the wonder of the Maple Queen and her Syrup princesses (we missed the crowning at the Maple Ball)…

Maple Queen and Syrup Princesses

Instead, we’ll focus on the fascinating process of getting sugar water from trees to something worthy of crowning your pancakes.

It starts with a sugar maple tree.  In Virginia they mainly grow above altitudes of 3,000 ft..  Some of the trees still in use for tapping are 200+ years old!

Tapped tree

With a good cycle of freezing and thawing, pressure grows in the tree to seal up the hole that the tap (called a spile) has made.  During the thaw, the sugar water comes out of the hole, too quickly for the tree to heal itself.  Don’t worry:  no trees are permanently injured in the making of maple syrup!


The sugar water that gets collected varies in sugar content each year.  For 2015 it takes only 32 gallons of sugar water that you boil down to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup.  In other years it’s been much higher, and you can actually make syrup from lower altitude maples, but you’d need double the sugar water.

Heating the sugar water

Once you have maple syrup, then the options to celebrate are limitless.  We highly recommend the maple donuts.  Buzzy ate four!!

Maple donut

For you energy-conscious readers who are thinking:  wow, this is a ridiculously energy intensive process — you’re right!  Buzzy recommends you get your sugar from honey, where the bees do all the work evaporating nectar into honey.  Carbon footprint = 0.

This post brought to you by McBene Hill Honey.

Parsnip Party!

Cheenius is here to tell us a tale of parsnip wrangling. Thanks, Cheenius!

As everyone knows, Cheenius loves to make things from scratch — because who wouldn’t want to spend way more time and effort on soup then anyone else in her circle? But, in this case, Cheenius was feeling pretty proud of having grown her own parsnips, and needed to show them off.

whole parsnips

You’ll notice the actual parsnips look unlike anything you’ve ever purchased at a grocery store, and more like unmentionable body parts from Jabba the Hutt. Turns out they maybe needed a little more water than Cheenius gave them, which meant they turned woody and cankerous.

[Ed: For purposes of comparison and poking fun at Cheenius, here’s a picture of normal-looking parsnips -]

normal parsnips

After some research, Cheenius learned that she needed to chop out the middle woody parts, which left her with not much to roast:

chopped parsnips

Not to worry! The recipe called for a leek, so there was a little more volume in the roasting pan. Phew!

roasted parsnips

After roasting, simmering, blending the various bits, and then tripling the amount of cream (I mean, c’mon: if anyone appreciates adding dairy it’s Cheenius!), the soup actually turned out quite good:

parsnip soup

[Ed: Cheenius did not take a picture of the actual finished product, so the above is a stock photo.]

[Ed: Get it? Stock photo?]

[Ed: It’s not really a stock photo, it’s from this recipe. Sorry, I cannot resist a pun.]

Mr. Cheenius commented on a certain grittiness to the dish. Evidently Cheenius got a little lazy when it came to actually washing the parsnips, and also doesn’t own one of those vegetable scrubbers (Christmas gift idea, anyone?). Still, they agreed that this could easily be their main go-to root vegetable soup, and extra dirt just means it’s that much more homemade. Here’s the recipe if anyone is inspired (thanks to Marie Taylor for sharing!):


1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into medium-size pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin)
1 1/2 cups (about 1 large) chopped leeks, white and light-green parts only
4 sprigs lemon thyme, divided
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter


Heat oven to 350°F. In a medium roasting pan, toss parsnips with oil. Roast, covered with foil, 20 minutes. Add leeks and leaves of 2 thyme sprigs; toss to coat with oil; splash with wine. Roast, covered with same foil, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, 30 minutes. Discard any burned bits.

In a large pot, bring veggies and 2 cups stock to a boil; reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes; let cool slightly.

In a food processor, blend soup on low until smooth. Return blended soup to pot; add cream. Bring soup to a very low simmer; season with salt and black pepper; add enough of the lemon juice to cut the sweetness to your deisred level.  Add remaining 1 cup stock to reach desired thickness.

Anybody else have a good parsnip recipe?

Babe(s) in the Wood

Here is the first guest post from the fabulous Ewe-nique!

Since the HPs, Cheenius, Mr. Dr. Cheenius, and the Tiny Twosome were all off to more exotic locales over Labor Day, it fell squarely on my shoulders to ensure that at least one of us attended the 2014 “Meet Yer Eats” Farm Tour. I accepted this self-directed mission with gravity and pride. In fact, I was so stealthy in my plan that the whole thing was unbeknownst to HP until I sent her this guest post and begged to be featured.

Meet Yer Eats

For those not familiar with the “Meet Yer Eats” Farm Tour, it is an annual Central Virginia event where a number of local farms roll out their welcome mat and offer the general public the chance to explore and “meet” their food sources. As an avid cook, locavore, and conscientious (i.e. picky) eater, I think that we can all benefit substantially by learning about and being aware of where our food comes from.

I must admit that my choice of farm this year was driven by an ulterior motive. As a longtime vegetarian, and more recently a pescatarian, I’ve been considering including other meats in my diet again for the past few months. However, one of my chief objections to the carnivorous lifestyle has long been the manner in which the consumed animals are raised and slaughtered. Thus, I decided to truly meet my eats and visit Babes in the Wood, a farm out in Dillwyn, Virginia that raises free-roaming, forest-foraging pigs.

The drive out to pastoral Dillwyn was winding, warm, and sunny. I’d been out VA-20 South many a time, but never this far south. I knew that I had ventured into uncharted territory when I passed a larger than life inflated chicken outside of an establishment called Lumpkin’s.

Since this was a solo expedition, I played one of my favorite alone-time games on the drive out: Rockin’ Road Name Revue. Believe me, people get creative on the backroads of Virginia. I won’t bore you with the entire list, but here were my top favorites:

  • Troublesome Creek Road (That pesky creek is forever making mischief.)
  • Little Heaven Road (Leading to a trailer park, but… perhaps a reference to the Tiny House movement as chronicled by the Tiny Twosome on HP back in June?)
  • B-A-H Road (I can only assume this name is in reference to sheep or that it is one Bad Ass Homestead.)

I arrived at Babes in the Wood in time to wander around before we began a tour of the farm. In addition to sighting the piggies from afar, I also ventured over to the chicken coop and a small barn where there were a few calves hanging out.

Farmyard scene

Bill Jones, the owner and founder of Babes in the Wood, took us on an excellent hike in the farm woods, where he answered a bevy of questions from our curious group. Here are the highlights of what I learned:

  • Bill raises English Tamworths, a breed that is well suited for forest life. The Tamworths have a lovely red coat and enjoy foraging for their food.
  • The sows give birth approximately twice a year (although if a sow had a very tough birth or large litter, Bill will only breed her once during that year), and the average litter size is eight piglets.
  • The pigs are fed at the farm once a day, and then are free to forage as they like throughout the forest.

Forest scene

  • Quite a few of us were eager to know how Bill keeps track of his pigs since they are free to wander. The simple answer is, he recognizes them when they arrive for the daily feeding, and if they don’t show up, he goes looking for them.
  • Unfortunately, I did not bring my pen and paper, so I don’t recall the exact number of pigs that are currently being raised on the farm. The numbers tend to vary with the seasons. However, Bill does keep the number proportional to the acreage of the farm (only two to three pigs per acre). If there are too many pigs per acre, their extensive rooting for food exposes the roots of the trees and can cause the trees to fall.
  • The pigs are approximately 12 to 15 months old when they go to slaughter.
  • Pigs are considered ready for butchering based on their weight, with about 300 pounds generally being the desirable weight.

Whilst traipsing through the woods, we kept keen eyes open for Kevin Bacon, the farm’s boar, but he regrettably did not show his snout. Bill mentioned that Kevin had decided a day or so ago that he was going into the woods and not staying in the pen. Apparently, one cannot persuade a 400 pound boar to change his mind if he has other intentions. Another fun fact: Kevin will grow to approximately 1000 pounds!

On our forest tour, we wandered down to a creek in the woods in hopes of sighting a few pigs, the creek being one of their favorite hangouts. However, the piggies must not have been in the wallowing mood, because we did not spot any near the creek. We did see a large sow hanging out in the woods by herself, and Bill mentioned that she had been feeling under the weather for the past few days. During this conversation, I learned that the primary health risk that his pigs face is pneumonia. The onset of the condition is sudden, and the pigs can die within three days of showing symptoms, so it must be caught and treated quickly. Thus, Bill had been keeping a close eye on this girl.

sick piggy

As our hike drew closer to the farm’s estate, we found many pigs hanging out near the farm’s fence. Many of the older pigs were relaxing, quite sensibly, in the shade of the trees, while the younger ones were cavorting together in a large group.

pig digs

Though the pigs are somewhat skittish around visitors (there was a lot of oinking and running away as I drew near), they are very social among themselves and establish a clear pecking (or perhaps porking?) order that lasts throughout their lives. The pigs are no stranger to putting a fellow pig in his or her place, and sometimes squabble amongst themselves to enforce this social hierarchy.

I’d like to present an analysis of the traits that can determine an individual pig’s status within his or her drove:

pig trait analysis

Toward the end of the tour, I got down to the nitty gritty and asked Bill about the manner in which his pigs are slaughtered. Interestingly, Bill is not allowed to slaughter and butcher the pigs himself if he is going to sell the meat to the public. Instead, by law, he must have the pigs processed at a USDA-approved facility. Hearing this initially raised my hackles a bit, but after I received the full story, my worries were abated.

Bill, as I mentioned, knows his pigs by sight. Every few weeks, he identifies the ones that are ready to be butchered and catches them (which is usually just the case of closing the gate when they come to the farm pen for their daily meal). The pigs then spend a few days in the pen, where there is plenty of space and lovely mud to wallow in, so that they can get used to the enclosed quarters.

mud wallow

When it is butchering day, he personally takes the pigs down to Blue Ridge Meats, his butcher in Front Royal.

Bill mentioned that his butcher is certified humane, but as we both agreed, like “certified organic”, “certified humane” can encompass a variety of abattoir environments and practices. Here’s the skinny on what goes down for the Babes from the Wood:

  • The pigs are slaughtered individually, and the other pigs are not exposed to the death of their fellow animals.
  • The pigs are killed with a single shot to the back of the neck/head, and then they are bled out and butchered. I thought that the “shot” was an electrical shock of some sort, but I forgot to clarify, and after doing some Internet research, it might also be a captive bolt gun. The common alternative to this practice is that the pigs have their throats slit and are bled out while they are still alive and, quite literally, screaming.
  • At Bill’s butcher, on a really, really, busy day, they may butcher up to 20 pigs. Contrast that with a typical commercial factory farm, which may slaughter thousands of pigs per day.
  • I checked out Blue Ridge Meats’ website post-tour, and was pleased to see that they clearly support and adhere to the humane butchery of their animals.

Thus, in my opinion, if you are trying to source humanely raised and slaughtered pork, you need look no further than Babes in the Wood. These are happy, healthy pigs who are extremely well cared for and have the chance to lead a natural, piggy lives before they are butchered with consideration and compassion. [Ed: And Mr. HP assures you that Babes in the Wood pork is DELICIOUS. You can get a sandwich at their tent at Charlottesville’s Saturday City Market, in addition to buying packaged meat.]

Having exhausted Rockin’ Road Name Revue on my way out, I found time on the drive home to reflect on my visit and compose a few pig-related haikus, also known as hamkus:

meat on cloven feet
bacon, ham, sausage, pork are
names for pigs we eat


My dear porcine friend,
I’m glad you had a good life
up until the end.

And with that, I’ll turn, appropriately, to the words of Porky Pig to sum up this post: “Th-th-that’s all, folks!”

happy pig

The Great Locavore Dinner Party Challenge

We all agree (right?) that there are environmental, societal, nutritional, and taste benefits to getting your produce and animal products from local farms, but how many locally-sourced ingredients are actually in *your* average dinner? The always-entertaining Cheenius, Mr.Dr. Cheenius, Butter Boy & Butter Babe (aka the Tiny Twosome), and friends challenged themselves with a special dinner party to see how local their cooking could get. Here’s Cheenius to tell you more…

lakeside dining

Locavores . . . eating local . . . blah blah blah local.  Cheenius and friends decided it was time to meet the challenge head-on and hold a Local Food Only Dinner.  Each guest made something that was primarily sourced from near-by foods, which gave us an interesting menu:

Local beer, wine, and cider (duh)
Baba Ganoush
Deviled Eggs
Tomato Mozarella Salad
Potatoes Au Gratin
Roasted Corn/Black Beans/Peppers/Tomato/Feta Salad
Roasted Potatoes
Blueberry Pie
Peach Honey Ice Cream

(No main dish, but did we really need one?)

local beverages

local caprese

Everything was quite tasty, especially the Potatoes Au Gratin from Butter Babe, and we were having fun (discussing Ebola, etc.) until Cheenius ruined it with . . .


She and Mr.Dr. Cheenius made everyone score their dishes as follows:

  • Grown or made yourself = 3 points
  • Grown within 50 miles = 2 points
  • From anywhere in VA = 1 point

It was a weighted average, so you had to consider the percentage each ingredient made of the whole dish, and then multiply by the point system, and then add them up.  All this on a Friday night?  Ridiculous.

corn, tomato, avocado, bean salad

local blueberry pie

Obviously Cheenius, with her own garden and eggs, won, but she graciously bestowed jars of local honey as prizes to the 2nd and 3rd place winners.  One lucky guest also won for most local human (if you count Northern VA as Virginia).

Good times, may have to make it an annual event!

Floyd Tiny House Tour

Guest post from the swashbuckling Tiny Twosome. Thanks, Tiny Twosome!

Last month, the Tiny Twosome (formerly known as Butter Boy and Butter Babe) attended the Sustain Floyd Tiny House Tour.  This fun self-guided driving tour of six private tiny homes in and around Floyd, VA, gave us a peek into the homes, and lives, of a few folks who have made the choice to scale back on their material possessions and expand their time and resources for other things.

We left Charlottesville Friday after work and hit the road toward Floyd, stopping in Lexington for a little dinner before finally reaching our destination: the Bent Mountain Lodge Bed and Breakfast.  Even before the Tiny Tour, this place seemed expansive.  We had a good night, though somewhat interrupted by a sound outside that made us think of a barking seal, and after a minimalist breakfast the next morning – slightly supplemented by food from the “family” refrigerator, before Butter Boy noticed the sign on the other fridge that read “Guest Refrigerator,” we headed off bright and early for the first house on our list.

The Twosome’s Favorite Tiny House

316 square ft house

The 316 square foot house, built by Christy and Ricardo, powered by a solar system installed by Ricardo, was our first – and favorite – of the houses.  The couple spent a year building their house – living in a tent for the first six months.  Ricardo said that ten months out of the year they are able to feed power back into the grid and have the electric company send THEM a check. The couple lives mortgage-free, paying for projects and upgrades as they go, without going into debt.  This cute two-story house sits on a on a permanent foundation.  Some of our favorite features were the “big” wrap-around porch, cozy feel, and red metal roof.  Inside, it was small but very livable for two.

The Tiny Farm Cabin

Our next stop was the Riverstone Organic Farm to see the tiny cabin where a farm worker (Kat) lives for the season.  Although it is insulated and has electricity, this cabin has no indoor plumbing and is heated by a small woodstove.  The little cabin has a sitting area, a curtained-off bedroom area, and a loft, and is decorated with Kat’s found treasures from around the farm and beyond.  Kat said she does her cooking and washing-up at the facilities in the nearby barn / farm store.

Riverstone Organic Farm cabin

Also on the property was this yurt they purchased for use as a guesthouse and special events.  We liked the stump steps up to the platform.

Stump stairs

The Tiny Family Home

Amazingly, Hari and Karl’s family of four has lived in this tiny house for the past four years.  They constructed the 168 square foot house themselves on a mobile home frame, and have been living there mortgage-free while constructing a larger home on the adjoining lot.  This tiny home has a sleeping loft at either end, and the downstairs contains a living area, kitchen, and bathroom.

168 square ft house

Their chickens enjoy a well-crafted home of their own.  The extensive chicken compound looked like just the place to raise happy, well-adjusted chickens.  I’m sure “factory farm” isn’t even in their vocabulary.

chicken compound

We drove into town and had a nice lunch break at the Floyd Country Store, where Butter Boy enjoyed chicken pot pie and tomato soup and Butter Babe had a tasty quiche and white bean and kale soup.  We spotted a few of the other Tiny Tourists who apparently had the same idea.

The Tiniest Tiny House

Next stop was Jim’s 120 square foot self-built home – which was also constructed on a mobile home trailer.  Jim, however, used only a small portion of the frame’s length (about 8 feet) for his home and dedicated the rest to an extensive deck and attached shed.  It was by far the Tiniest of the Tiny homes we saw.  With five of us standing inside, there wasn’t room for much more.

tiniest tiny house

The Roomy-ish Tiny House

The small home of Morgan and Amado has a bedroom area to the right of the front door, a sitting area straight ahead, and bathroom and kitchen off to the left. There is a storage loft over the kitchen and bathroom. The very open floor plan felt roomy for such a modest-sized home.

roomy tiny house

After the tour we had to stop by the nearby Chateau Morrisette to taste some wine before dinner.  Butter Boy abstained from the wine tasting – as he was driving.  Butter Babe, however, was not planning to do any driving that day.

Chateau Morrisette

Dinner was at a local Italian restaurant, Mickey G’s Bistro and Pizzeria, where we enjoyed seafood and pasta.  Butter Boy had a giant half-lobster but was given only a tiny nutcracker to get into the slippery, buttery crustacean.  (Sadly, given that we were in the landlocked little town of Floyd, we’re pretty sure that the lobster was not locally sourced…)

The final activity of the Tiny Tour was the showing of the movie “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” at the Floyd Country Store.  The film followed a young man as he took longer than he anticipated to build his own tiny house – with help from his very patient girlfriend.   A question and answer session followed with a panel of tiny homeowners (the homes, not the owners).

More than a tiny bit tired, we returned to the Bent Mountain Lodge – which felt larger than the night before – for one more night before heading home with lots of ideas and things to think about.

A Tiny Haiku:

Simple tiny house

Smaller footprint larger life

Gentler on the Earth

Churn baby churn!

Guest post from Cheenius!

It’s cold, it’s January, everyone just wants to eat healthfully, so Cheenius, Mr. Cheenius, and two intrepid friends got together to… MAKE BUTTER!!! Butter Boy had brought back his grandmother’s butter churn from visiting his family over the holidays, hoping to relive his butter-making experiences from the 1970’s. Why? We find it’s best not to ask sometimes. But, given that three of us were Butter Virgins, it was crucial to have his only slightly creepy guidance. That guy knows butter.

His Butter Babe provided a gallon of non-homogenized heavy cream from Mt. Crawford Creamery [Ed: love their motto!], enabling us to attempt to make sweet cream butter (as opposed to cultured butter, which comes from non-pasteurized cream). Butter Boy kept the cream out of the refrigerator for 24 hours ahead of time so that it would sour a little bit. And then we were ready to start!

Pouring milk into the churn

That’s right!  We crossed the streams!

We decided on 5 minute shifts of churning, which everyone commented wasn’t tiring at all. Although, Cheenius would like to note here that we’re all incredibly fit, truly prime specimens of strength, endurance, and general rippedness. Who can say how the average person would perform under the same conditions? Anyway, it was only 10 minutes before we could see…

Clumpy cream


After another 20-25 minutes there was definitely something buttery happening:

butter in churn

It’s even turning yellow!

And after a total of just 40 minutes we actually had the much-anticipated

Getting buttery


After using a slotted spoon to transfer the yellow miracle to a bowl, Butter Boy and Mr. Cheenius rinsed our butter with ice cold water until the water ran clear.

rinsing the butter

Then we sat down to warm biscuits with the freshest butter Cheenius has ever tasted. We all agreed the flavor was of buttery goodness! Might have benefited from some salt after the rinsing, but otherwise we all felt quite proud of our accomplishment. Yield from one gallon of cream: 2 lbs. 11 oz. of butter, and 3 quarts of buttermilk.

biscuits and butter

And yeah, afterwards we bellied up to the bar and did buttermilk shooters. THAT’S how we roll on a Saturday night.

buttermilk shooters

Thanks, Cheenius! This wacky bunch will be presenting their churning smarts at a Transitions Charlottesville skill share soon. Keep your eye on the Transitions calendar if you’re interested in attending!

Get your lamb fix here!

Guest post from Buzzy! Thanks, Buzzy!

I went on the “Meet Yer Eats” farm tour last week, and of course it was great — educational, interesting, blah blah blah.  But let’s get down to serious business:  Lambs are cute.  So this is your lamb fix for the week (I bet you didn’t even know you needed a lamb fix, did you?).  Special thanks to Everona Dairy for providing the lambs!

Everona lambs
They had lots of lambs.

Everona baby lamb
Some had even been born THAT DAY.

Everona lambs and kids
They had kids AND lambs together!

Lamb's ear
And for the cherry on top: they even grow Lamb’s Ear!

Raleigh Farmers Market

Today we have a guest post from Nadia Cempré! Thanks, Nadia!

I have been dying to find an opening in my insane life to visit my sister Lamya in Raleigh–and this weekend when I finally made it happen, I could hardly sleep thinking about it for three very clear reasons:

  • I couldn’t wait to see my sister’s new condo.
  • I couldn’t wait to try out a Middle Eastern restaurant she’d been promising to take us to for good ol’ home-cooking.
  • The promise of the Raleigh Farmers Market in Summer time!

This last one is something I have been excited about for no less than 7 or 8 years, dating back to when my interest in the local food movement was first sparked. I distinctly remember watching the Travel Channel as they counted down the top 20 places for singles in their late 20s to meet others – and lo and behold in the top spot they name… the Raleigh Farmers Market.

I go to the Charlottesville City Farmers Market just about every Saturday morning during the season–it is my absolute favorite thing to do after my long marathon training runs, and the open and close of the Farmers Market season demarcate the start and end of a significant chapter in my life annually. I come alive when it’s announced in April, and retreat into a period of melancholy and reflection when it converts to a Holiday Market in November.

So you can imagine my surprise, as we took our time getting ready yesterday morning that the Raleigh Farmers Market is open year round, all day long, seven days a week!

Raleigh Farmers Market

The local food movement took its time inching its way out East from the West coast of the United States– but as it did, North Carolina and its Research Triangle area became leaders in the endeavor. Proximity to the heart of Southern farmland, combined with research, education, and support from the three surrounding universities conspired to produce a community hungry to support their families with local and responsible meats and produce.

The market is sponsored and supported by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, so it is very much a state-funded endeavor, and the state also sponsors a North Carolina Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council:

It is the purpose of the North Carolina Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council to contribute to building a local food economy, thereby benefiting North Carolina by creating jobs, stimulating statewide economic development, circulating money from local food sales within local communities, preserving open space, decreasing the use of fossil fuel and thus reducing carbon emissions, preserving and protecting the natural environment, increasing consumer access to fresh and nutritious foods, and providing greater food security for all North Carolinians.

For the past few years, the Charlottesville City Government has struggled with decisions regarding finding a permanent space for our quaint group of vendors and farmers. The Raleigh Farmers Market venue is the dream of every vendor–and every mom with a stroller in the middle of August. When we arrived we walked into one of the two massive permanent shelters that had constant fans blowing in every direction, and a permanent roof protecting from what can be a sweltering North Carolina sun.

As a matter of fact, they had Big Ass Fans.

Big Ass Fans

Right away, it was clear that this, just like in Virginia, was the month of the peach! They were everywhere! Plump, and beckoning, and promising of sweetness. The vendors were practically begging us to try samples, and even though we could hardly breathe from the local brunch offerings we’d just had, we couldn’t resist the peach slices.


Speaking of my brunch, I have been pleasantly surprised by all the local, responsibly-raised offerings in restaurants and have had no trouble finding poultry and meat options in Raleigh I can feel happy about. Here was the brunch I speak of, consisting of local eggs on Carolina crab cakes with seasonal fruit salad:

Raleigh Brunch

My youngest sister Mona had grand plans to make her famous Eggplant Lasagna for Lamya so the main purpose of the visit was to purchase the freshest ingredients for that. Eggplants were everywhere, and debates regarding the right size, color, and variety were intense.

Raleigh Eggplants

In the end however, fresh and local garlic, eggplant, tomatoes, and basil were all successfully agreed upon and taken home for the lasagna. The tomatoes were glorious and it was all I could do to stop myself from grabbing a pint of the cherry ones and munching right there and then!


The market was set up in an impressively organized fashion, and I quickly learned that produce was designated to either the right or the left of the shelter. One side was for vendors exclusively selling self-grown and farmed produce and plants. The other side was designated for items that might be re-sale. Everything under that first roof had to be North Carolina-produced. Interestingly, they didn’t define ‘local’ by radius, but rather by state. The rules meant that if it came from 4 hours away in North Carolina, you could sell it. However, if it came from 3 hours away in Virginia you could not. That was a designation of ‘local’ I hadn’t heard before but it made complete sense since the entire thing was an endeavor of the state.

The variety was staggering! Having done a fair amount of travelling I thought I had pretty much come across anything we can grow in America, but I found a delectable item called a canary melon that I had never seen before! It was delicious!

Canary melons Canary melon

The shelter was divided into three sections: produce, prepared and baked foods, and garden. Next on our agenda was to purchase three new indoor potted plants for my sister’s condo. I have never had a green thumb, and never been one to care about flowers, but it was hard not to get mushy at all the beautiful and unique floral and plant arrangements.

These plants in particular caught my eye; their bright purple veins appealed to the biologist in me, and my sister took home a darker variety.

Raleigh plants

Raleigh plants

Three plants later, we made our way to the most dangerous area, the prepared and baked goods section. Good thing we were so full already! I was able to control myself when it came to my weakness: fresh baked salt pretzels! But Lamya didn’t win her battle and walked away with a gorgeous loaf of ciabatta (for garlic bread with the lasagna!)

Raleigh pretzels

I learned that the huge sheltered building next door was a further expansion of this market. That building was where farmers from all over the country could share their goods. It was not limited to North Carolina produce, and there you could find Florida oranges, and Virginia eggs! Truly a one-stop-shop experience!

My favorite part of the Raleigh Farmers Market were all the little helpful signs that seemed to be a trend amongst vendors. Everywhere you looked, there were notes telling you how to cook, tend, water, and care for the various offerings.

Raleigh market signs

Raleigh market signs

The vendors were cheerful, friendly, and happy to be there, and the sense of safety and community abounded. I can’t wait to come visit again, and this time I’m bringing massive coolers so I can take things home to Virginia!

Buzzy’s Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Mulberry Crumble Surprise

Guest post from our favorite backyard farmer, Buzzy! Thanks, Buzzy!


Readers of Haute Pasture know how much Buzzy enjoys local food, with of course the pinnacle being food from your own backyard.  Buzzy noticed her mulberry tree was fruiting, so she picked a few and made up a recipe to try:

Buzzy’s Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Mulberry Crumble Surprise

cup of mulberries
honey (Buzzy feels like it’s technically not sugar if you’re a beekeeper)
4 packets of Stevia
Gluten-free flour (That’s the mystery!  It’s unclear whether the unmarked flour in Buzzy’s pantry was rice or teff or something similar.  Can you feel the drama building??)

Take two ramekins and fill the bottom of each with 1/2 cup of mulberries.  Drizzle a little bit of honey on top.  Separately, mix the butter, stevia, and mystery flour until you get a crumbly consistency.  Sprinkle on top of each ramekin and bake for 30 minutes at 350.

Result:  A very subtle berry crumble with just a hint of sweetness.  Quite tasty!  Not sure you can improve on perfection, but using almond flour and adding finely chopped pecans could make this into Buzzy’s Hall of Fame.