Beth Knorr, Farmers’ Market & Local Food Programs Manager
Each year when we begin accepting applications from potential vendors at our markets, the excitement level at the office rises as we begin anticipating the new things we’ll be able to stock our fridges and pantries with from local sources. Our region’s collective kitchen/pantry needs are what drive us to add diversity within product categories, as well as seek out those local farmers and food crafters with offerings not currently available at the market.
There are a few things that I’m particularly excited about. Some of these we already have at the market, and others I would love to find and encourage!
Grains: I am so excited to be able to buy barley, rolled oats and flour at the market. All-local pancakes are nearly a possibility, except for the buttermilk. I hope that happens soon.
Speaking of buttermilk- I’d love to be able to have milk at the market. For the local milk producers I have spoken with, volume is an issue at farmers’ markets, and that is why we don’t see this more often. I’ve seen a handful of really small scale milk producers in other parts of the country- New York, in particular. So I have hope that someday it will be possible here in Ohio. But I’d also love to have yogurt. And, of course, more cheese. You can never have too much cheese.
Pickles and fermented foods are things that I would love to have at our markets. Processing facilities are few and far between, so that remains a barrier but it is not impossible. How about sauerkraut and kimchee – (check out this great example from the Ferry Plaza Market in San Francisco); pickled beets and onions; bread and butter pickles; there is a lot of opportunity in this area, to be sure.
Fresh shelling beans and dried beans. The humble bean is so under-rated. There is nothing like fresh shelling beans simmered with some herbs and drizzled with olive oil. And wouldn’t it be nice to have an assortment of dried beans to choose from? Borlotti beans, cranberry beans and of course black beans. There are a handful of farmers in the region that are experimenting with growing dried beans, and I’m confident we’ll see more of this over the coming years.
Charcuterie! We have really wonderful vendors providing us with meat and poultry, but I would also love to see someone making cured meats such as salami, prosciutto, guanciale and so on.
Fancy melons. I think we have a great amount of watermelons at our markets. I’d love to see this expanded in the cantaloupe and honeydew area, too. There are a vast number of varieties that are particularly well suited for farmers’ markets, and I’d be thrilled if one of our farmers took up the challenge of growing a handful of specialty varieties.
Asparagus- will there ever be enough? Is there such thing as too much? I don’t think so.
These are just a few of the items that I’m hoping for in the next few years. Some will come on sooner than others, and the dearth of all kinds of processing facilities in our state make some others a real challenge. As long as we continue to demonstrate a commitment to local, I’m confident they’ll all happen eventually.
What’s on your market wish list?