Mornings at the Farmers Market
Moving to Maine from New York, I have always been enamored by the community focus and regular involvement/access to so many great resources. The farmers market is the epitome of this community collaboration. Each Wednesday + Saturday, 20+ farms are lined up throughout Deering Oaks park right here in Portland. On top of the insanely bountiful variety of produce this brings, its also gathering hundreds of families, a handful of musicians and artists with their own stands, local chefs, and so many dogs! You can always count on seeing Union or Black Tie Catering t-shirts walking around, and on my last trip I ran into Vanessa Seder and got to chat quickly about how much fun our Eat Cool dinner was, you can read all about that here!
As someone constantly cooking up something, the market is the best place to get inspired. I beelined right towards this massive display of different varieties of cherry tomatoes, then as you walk towards Meadowood Farm (one of the longest attending farms at the market, 25 years!) you'll find a dozen varieties of garlic with sweet handwritten descriptions. There several places selling Okra which wouldn't typically be grown up here, it is all so incredible! You can pickup oysters at Emily's Oysters, cheese + yogurt from Balfour Farms, kimchi + sauerkraut from Thirty Acre Farms, fresh chicken from Maine-ly Poultry, try a mushroom growing kit from North Spore, or join the bouquet of the month club with Snell Family Farm. It's a great opportunity to connect and have conversations with those growing your food and there's so much motivation to return each week as the harvests change often and you truly get surprised with new things each time.
You could become a "Friend of the Market" where you donate towards a membership which helps sustain Low Income Access program that allows market wide access to Food Stamp Recipients, with any extra donations + grant funding going towards Harvest Bucks. Harvest Bucks are bonus dollars that can double SNAP recipients' credit to be spent on fruits + veggies at the market.
When I first moved to town, I volunteered at the market as a way to socialize and get familiar with what's available. This consisted of signing up by providing my intended dates of helping, and then taking on a three hour shift of helping direct pedestrian traffic, passing out hand sanitizer, and walking away with tokens to use at the market. Plus, I truly felt lucky to be spending misty mornings in the park with the occasion live music. Now, I live a short minute away, and have re-routed my dog walk to pickup fresh herbs before work.
If you haven't made your way over yet, you're missing out! We are in peak season right now for most produce, but the market does move inside + keep up throughout the colder months too.