Well, a very Happy Birthday to the St. Michael’s Farmers Market. Saturday, June 30th, 2012 marked the opening day of this brand new neighborhood farmers market, and I must say it was a wonderful and vibrant gathering. I am thrilled to have it in the neighborhood. Every market has its own vibe and place in our community. I welcome them all. But this market, in one little day, leapfrogged to the very top of my list of favorites. Of course, I have about four markets at the top of my list of favorites. Located in the new north parking lot of the St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, there is room for quite a number of vendors, and they showed up with bells on.
Bright and early on Saturday, though not early enough to get Meyer Lemon or Multi-grain bread from Village Baking Co. (you have to show up early for those favorites), my kids and my neighbor, Linda, and I ran out to see what we could see. By the time we arrived at nine a.m., the parking lot was overflowing. That is a lovely sight!
There were a number of produce vendors I had yet to meet in my farmers market wanderings. In fact, at many community markets one is left to feel like there was plenty of everything BUT produce. Here, there were several produce vendors of exceptional quality. I hesitate to list them because I will invariably miss someone who should be in the bunch, but let me try. Farmer Jones, Larken Farms Orchard, Sachse Heritage Farms, Dr. Blueberry, Pureland Organic, and a lovely young lady selling beautiful watermelon and cantaloupe fresh from Grapeland, Texas. If I missed anyone, please feel free to set me straight in the comments and I will be sure to amend the list. My heart goes out to Marellyn at Berry Best Farms (Dr. Blueberry), because I know that if I lose sight of my daughter, Lily, at a market at which they have a booth, I will find Lily there devouring the bowl of sample berries. It is my Lily Lost and Found. But, they are always generous and never turn away the kids. The berries are both local and organic and according to Lily, top notch. I wouldn’t know because every time we have purchased them, Lily has eaten them all in the car on the way home. None for me.
Goat Cheese, anyone? Sure, take your pick from Latte Da Dairy or Rosa Family Farm. Latte Da has wonderful cheese which I have bought on many occasions, so I bought some from Rose Family Farm and it was great, too. For those not in the mood for goat cheese, Paula Lambert of the Mozzarella Company was at the market in person selling her line of local cheeses.
I am a big fan of the food artisans at markets. I love buying a loaf of fresh bread or introducing the kids to an interesting new cookie maker. Last week at the White Rock Local Market, my husband, Pitts, introduced me to the Vandivers of Martin’s Biscotti. Martin is a photographer, as well, and he had done work for Pitts in the past. Martin and his wife were at St. Michael this weekend and their biscotti is great. I have never really understood biscotti because I figured if I had room for biscotti, I had room for a chocolate chip cookie. But, this biscotti makes me understand why people love biscotti. So, if you see Martin’s at a market, pick up a a box. They are generous with the samples of their varied and interesting flavors, so belly up and try a few. I doubt you will leave empty handed. They also sell coffee (and have samples to try with your biscotti) of Cultured Cup Coffee. It is a nice combination.
Of course, my perennial favorite, In a Pickle Foods, had a spot at the market. Karen Felps is a sweetheart and she makes spicy pickles and a whole line of beautiful jams. I feel like this is a company that will really take off in Texas and elsewhere. The Felps have that kind of magnetism combined with exceptional products, beautiful packaging, and good pricing. If you haven’t bought the pickles, you need to do so soon. They are unbeatable on a homemade pimento cheese and bacon sandwich. And, I’m quite picky about pickles.
Susan Pollard of the Texas Honeybee Guild brought her bees and her smile to the market. Not only do the Pollards sell zip-code and other honey, but their real calling is education. You will see a passel of kids surrounding Susan or her husband Brandon no matter where they are. They bring a framed hive full of bees so that people can see the work of their friends. Susan even showed us how bees drink. In the middle photo above, if you look very closely, you can see little bee tongues piercing the dots of water. As she poured trickles of water down the frame you could see the dots disappear as bees turned momentarily for a sip before going back to work. Susan is open to any question the kiddos have about the bees, and she gave them little bee stickers when they found the queen. Honey is one of the best reasons to go to a local market. Both Round Rock Honey and AP’s Apiary were also selling honey. The kids love buying honey sticks and AP’s had plenty of flavors to choose from this weekend. Wonderful honey all the way around!
If you are a gardener, don’t miss talking to the Texas Worm Ranch folks. They sell castings and worm tea for your garden, as well as under counter worm composting bins. That might sound bizarre to the uninitiated, having a bucket of red wigglers in your kitchen. But they eat old newspaper and compostable food scraps and leave you with a bucket of castings for your garden. Nature is a funny thing, and in proper balance, they say a worm bin gives off no odor whatsoever. So your worms happily work for you (and multiply) right under your sink. Lily is trying to talk me into giving it a go. I’m not there yet. But in the meantime, I’m going to start buying the worm tea for my veggie patch.
Vendors that I noticed included:
Round Rock Honey
South Texas Beef Jerky
Mother Shucker’s Tamales
Latte Da Dairy
Hidden Valley Milk Soaps
Larken Farms Orchard
Rosa Family Farm
Sachse Heritage Farms
Berry Best Farm (Dr. Blueberry)
In A Pickle Foods
Tough Cookie Bakery
Texas Worm Ranch
Texas Honeybee Guild
The Rusty Taco
The Mozzarella Company
Village Baking Co.
Let’s just say I’m biased. I can admit that. But just because I’m biased does not mean that this isn’t a spectacular little (not really little at all, actually) market. St. Michael is a church in Dallas with which my husband has a long and happy history. He went to the St. Michael school as a young boy (now part of ESD) and his family attended the church weekly. Pitts sang in the choir with his dad. And, Pitts said goodbye to his dad in this church, as well. His very best friends, still today, are friends that he met in the halls of this church. The service of this community is commendable. They do quiet but large scale outreach all over Dallas, raising all boats, so to speak. In explaining the motivation for this market on the St. Michael website, Dr. Bob Dannals is quoted as saying, “We want the community to know that there are other ways to be a church beyond the traditional Sunday worship services. As we encourage environmental stewardship and promote healthy homegrown food products, we expect the Farmers Market to be a gathering place for our neighbors on Saturday mornings.”
I like that. I think that is a worthy exercise for a church or any neighborhood group. And frankly, we as a community are always more apt to learn and grow and care for our kids, neighbors, and food system in a collective and celebratory manner than in a legislative or punitive manner. Education and community outreach are fun when it involves bees and honey and loaves of bread. This was a happy group and a happy gathering. I wish this market and its organizers all the blessings in the world. It is a terrific addition to the Dallas market family.
The market will be open every Saturday during the Summer from eight until noon.
Finally, I hope everyone who visited the market picked up the latest edition of Edible Dallas & Fort Worth. I was happy to bump into editor Terri Taylor as I wandered around the tents. Edible has published stories on many of the vendors you will see at these markets and is a great supporter of all things fresh, organic, and local. For instance, here is a link on a story about In A Pickle Foods in the Summer 2012 Issue. And, here is a link to an article published last year about the Texas Worm Ranch. If you missed them, you can also pick up a copy at Whole Foods, Northaven Gardens, or Celebration Market. Or, subscribe.
Directions to St. Michael: St. Michael is at Colgate and Douglas…basically at NW Hwy and the tollway. If you exit off the tollway or come from Central on NW Hwy, go south on Douglas and the parking lot will be on your right just after the light at Sherry Lane.