Two days out from the first week at the new Farmers’ Market in Caribou and I am panicked. We are deluged again with intense showers that sweep in gray veils across the western hills. I am constructing and printing brochures, putting new batteries in the calculator, cleaning out the box in which we store pens, cash box, business cards, table cloths, and hopping the sign I ordered arrives today. If not, I will be printing and laminating a makeshift one tomorrow afternoon.
… good food at reasonable prices is a big part of what drives us, and we love being part of the developing local food movement …
I’ve been doing farmers’ markets on and off for more than thirty years. Kasey was an infant when I first packed the old IH Travel-all with produce from our garden and set forth to sell my wares. Even in Portland, we sold a few flowers, excess veggies to neighbors and friends, so feeding people seems to be part of who I am. Three summers ago, Kasey and I launched Goodwives Produce, a name we chose with our tongues firmly planted in our cheeks as there are many days when I am sure the husbands would agree we were anything but good wives. But the name is a tip of the hat to that very cheekiness we both have, as well as to the original premise of goodwives.
The website Patches from the Past http://www.historyofquilts.com/earlylife.html identifies such women as women of ordinary status who were called Goodwife, a term often shortened to Goody, and that was used much as we use Mrs. Today. Typically these women were expected to provide for the family by spinning, sewing, raising and preserving food, cooking and cleaning while caring for children, and perhaps raising chickens and geese. While things today are much different, women still bear a great deal of the responsibility for such chores, and in our decisions to live beyond the comforts and conveniences offered by urban life, these tasks or others very similar fall to us.
That first summer, we rose at dawn, picked produce like fiends and then packed everything into Kasey’s SUV to drive the 20 miles more or less to the market. We would set up, stay until 2 p.m. or we sold out, and then take everything down, pack it up and return home. We earned a decent amount, almost covering our expenses that year for seeds and tables, and an awning, and other necessities and it started us on our way. The next year, we passed on making the trek, and as Kasey had a new baby, I sold veggies from the farm here in Perham. It was slow going and the year that blight, which originated in seedlings purchased at big box stores, ravaged most of Aroostook County, aided in its fast spread by damp miserable weather not unlike this year’s. Because we grow organically, working our way to certification, we were especially vulnerable, but we persisted.
Last year was better. We sold bushels of beans, peas, summer squash and zucchini, and then in August, much to our delight, CORN! We sold and gave away more than we could count! We also froze 48 quarts of the lovely golden stuff, which Bruce cut from the ears and blanched and stashed in the upright freezer, one of three we have, and which made great eating all winter. The gardens bore prolifically. It was the perfect summer: just enough rain and a period of high temps that boosted the yield of everything. What we couldn’t sell or process – can or freeze – we gave to people we knew could use the extra food.
Now entering our fourth year, we are crossing our fingers and hoping that eventually rain will give way to sun and warmth, that we can fend off the flea and striped cucumber beetles, that people will buy our produce, and come back for more. On this first day, our offerings will be slim as the weather just has not cooperated, but we feel fortunate to have anything. We will have bunches of fresh herbs: mint, chives, oregano, lemon balm, some catnip. Some beautiful little radishes, maybe some very baby beet greens from the things, some Italian lettuce, and most of all, big smiles and a real joy in seeing our customers. Being able to provide good food at reasonable prices is a big part of what drives us, and we love being part of the developing local food movement that may make the difference as transportation and production costs for food keep rising.
So if you are in the Bennett Drive are in Caribou on Saturday morning, stop by and see us, or more precisely me. Kasey has a wedding so I’ll be manning the table by myself. We may not have a lot to offer this first time out, but we will, and you can bet we raised it carefully, wisely, naturally so that we can provide you with the best from our fields for your tables. Check out the market on Facebook or by visiting Caribou Maine Chamber of Commerce and Industry at www.cariboumaine.net.