Food & Beverage

It’s Summer and Local Farmers are Cultivating More Than Crops

By Julie Farthing

There is a Latin term, “carpe diem,” which literally means “pluck the day.” Today it is more known as “seize the moment” — to be totally immersed in your environment without thought for tomorrow. Carpe diem is actually a horticultural metaphor that is more accurately translated as the plucking and gathering of ripening fruits or flowers, enjoying a moment that is rooted in the sensory experience of nature. The perfect place to practice this mantra is at your local farmers’ market.

If you’ve never been to a farmers’ market, envision a county fair without the rides. For a few hours each week, empty parking lots and open fields across the High Country draw farmers, bakers, craftspeople, and musicians, much to the delight of eager shoppers. As the pink glow of sunrise emerges over the mountain, vendors set up tables and tents. Patrons arrive as the sun glides a bit higher, the air still cool and crisp. The unmistakable aroma of fresh-brewed coffee and baked goods waft through the air. Produce and flowers in all colors of the rainbow still retain the early morning dew. There is no doubt that the farmers’ market is an enchanting sensory delight.

What used to be just a place to find local produce has morphed into a celebrated event all over the region. The term “1,000-miles fresher” was coined to recognize that eating local is not only good for you but good for farmers and the community. And while the freshest produce, eggs, meats, dairy, and baked goods are still the foundation of the market, artisans, musicians, flower growers and food trucks have been building on that original concept, creating a fellowship of vendors who offer a relationship between producers and consumers. Farmers’ Markets are spaces to bring the whole family and connect with the community. 

The oldest farmers’ market in the High Country is the Watauga County Farmers’ Market (WCFM), held every Saturday, May-November at the Horn in the West parking lot. The WCFM has been considered the town square of the High Country since 1974. The 100-percent producer-only market provides locally made and produced food, art, music and crafts in a mountain setting in the heart of Boone, NC.

Matt Cooper, owner of Lively Up Farms, in Matney, NC has served as the president of the Board of Directors at WCFM for eight years. He says he is enjoying the ride of local food growth. “We have a few new vendors,” Cooper said of this year’s market. “There are more craft vendors this year as we are pretty much saturated with produce vendors unless it’s something unusual. Last year our newest vendors were folks who brought fish from Caldwell County that they harvest and smoke. It’s going to be another wonderful, strong year—basically we have farmers, plant people, starter plants, vegetables, crafters where you can find wooden utensils and bowls, clay pottery, and bird houses. All these crafts are one hundred percent handmade and go through a craft jury.” Cooper added that food trucks are very popular at the market. “We have Betty’s Biscuits, and Bald Guy Coffee will have a new food truck.”

Cooper emphasized the positive effect of local dollars spent in the community. “It also reduces our carbon footprint,” said Cooper, noting a “win-win” for both our health and the environment. And farmers’ markets not only provide healthy eating options, they also promote economic growth for both the farmer and the local community. The United States Department of Agriculture refers to the recycling of dollars spent at farmers’ markets as “The Multiplier Effect”—often returning more than three times as much of their sales back into their community compared to grocery store chains. Plus you get to spend a fun-filled day creating new friends and building relationships. Now that’s carpe diem.

FARMERS MARKETS IN OUR AREA:

For the true flavor of our region, stop by any of the markets listed below. Please note that while most of these markets will be open for the summer season, hours, locations and capacity may change due to COVID-19. Patrons need to check with each market prior to scheduling a trip.

Abingdon, VA Farmers Market

Saturdays 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., April – October | Tuesdays 3 – 6 p.m. April – September

The corner ofRemsburg Dr. and Cummings St. in downtown Abingdon

Ashe County Farmers’ Market

Saturdays 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. | April 20 – October 26

108 Backstreet, West Jefferson, NC

Avery County Farmers’ Market

Thursdays 4 – 6:30 p.m. | Historic Banner Elk School Parking Lot

185 Azalea Circle, Banner Elk, NC

Watauga County Farmers’ Market

Saturdays May through Oct, 8 a.m. – Noon | November 9 a.m.-Noon

591 Horn in the West Dr, Boone

King Street Farmers’ Market

Tuesdays 4 – 7 p.m. | May – October

Poplar Grove Connector, Boone, NC

Blowing Rock Farmers’ Market

Thursdays 3 – 6 p.m. | May 24 – September 24

132 Park Ave., Downtown Blowing Rock, NC

Johnson County Farmers’ Market

Summer Market, 9 a.m. to Noon | Saturdays May through October

Ralph Stout Park in Mountain City Mountain City, TN

Wilkes County Farmers’ Market

Saturdays 7:30 a.m.-Noon, Tuesdays 3:30-5:30 p.m. | April 18 – October

Yadkin Valley Marketplace in downtown N. Wilkesboro

Morganton Farmers’ Markets

Saturdays 8 a.m.-Noon | April 24-October 31

300 Beach St., Morganton

Wednesday Mini Market 12-4 p.m. | May 6-October 28

111 North Green St. Morganton

If you can’t make it to one of the many markets held throughout the High Country, you can also shop online at the High Country Food Hub at https://www.highcountryfoodhub.org for quality local food at the click of a button.


Spontaneous Entertaining

By Jeff Collins, CSW – Peabody’s Wine & Beer Merchants

These are strange times for all of us. For two straight months, none of us dined out in a restaurant. Most of us did not have company. Those of us lucky to have a close circle of friends and a nice open place to be able to socialize have had at least a little company, lots of it being spontaneous.

Spontaneous entertaining—the ability to throw together a round of drinks and entertain on a moment’s notice—is not only gracious, hospitable, and downright pleasant, but may be the best way of social contact with neighbors and friends, and a way to break the ice with someone new in the world we are currently living in. Now more than ever, life is uncertain, people are letting down their guard, talking to their neighbors, meeting new people, saying hello, and seeking each other’s company.

So, are you ready to invite that neighbor in for a drink (socially distanced, of course)? Are you stocked up to meet various tastes, situations, and numbers of people at any time? What is on hand, what variety is available, what is enough?

The basics for entertaining are food, beverages, your hospitality, and a place to entertain. You’ve got the hospitality and the place covered, so that leaves the food and beverage. A few key things, always in your pantry and refrigerator, will keep you set to entertain at a moment’s notice. For snacks with drinks, what is it that you like? Always keep two or three of your favorites around, such as mixed nuts, chips, cheese and crackers, dry cured sausages, etc.  What is your “signature” dinner that you absolutely kill it every time you make it? Keep those ingredients on hand, and make sure it’s a quick prep and cook. Easy! You’re set all the time, any time.

For drink options, consider what you have for non-alcoholic beverages, beer, wine, liquor and cocktail mixers. It sounds like a lot, but can be very simple. Always opt for your personal preferences, in all these categories, and keep enough on hand so you can imbibe whenever you’re in the mood, or when your guests are there. Kitchen staples like lemons, limes, and oranges are always a good idea, too.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages – These should include a combination of tasty and interesting things that anyone can enjoy (like your neighbors’ kids), but can have secondary uses, like being a mixer. The necessities are your favorites; then add soda water, including flavored ones like LaCroix, a good Ginger Beer, and something tart or bitter like tonic water. It’s never bad to keep Coca-Cola on hand, too. 

Beer – Again, have whatever are your favorites. Most beer drinkers are up for one of anything. Having a little variety may keep your guests, especially spontaneous guests, from being “one and done.” For example, if you like light beers and Miller Lite is your favorite, grab a four-pack of a local craft Pilsner (yes Miller Lite is a pilsner), like Booneshine’s East Boone Pils, or Wicked Weed’s Uncle Rick’s Pilsner. Beer is sold in four-packs and six-packs, so by having one of each, you’re set. Beer, for the most part, is best fresh, so keep a little variety around without letting them sit for too long.

Wine – Wine is so easy, yet so complex at the same time. Let’s start with easy. What do you like, and what do you buy and drink regularly? Do you have more than a bottle in the house? What would you need to entertain anyone at any time? The major categories of wine are white, red, rose’, and sparkling. Think about light vs. heavy, dry vs. sweet, oaky/rich vs. crisp/clean. You can have all of these styles covered in a very modest number of bottles, it just takes a little exploration to find what you like. Keep your wine at proper serving temperature, and have some decent glassware—you’re set.

Liquor – The easiest liquor bar is one white and one brown liquor. Add a couple of good mixers that can also serve as a non-alcoholic beverage, plus garnish, ice, glasses, and cocktail napkins. If you have vodka and soda or tonic, a splash of juice, and citrus for garnish, you have half or more of all liquor drinkers covered. One good whiskey in a glass, neat or with a great Ginger beer, like Fever Tree, and you have the other half of the cocktail drinkers covered. Add gin, tequila, Scotch and any favorite adjuncts (vermouth, cherries, bitters, Amaro, etc) to make your guests’ favorite cocktails.

We are in the South, where gracious hospitality is a cornerstone of our culture. While we live in uncertain times, the need to be social remains, and in some cases is stronger than ever. Remember that living is different from existing—be spontaneous, and enjoy those around you. 

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