West Chester Growers Market

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Snow Cones, Berries and Dogs!

Market Goers could not have asked for a better day to explore the West Chester Grower's Market this past Saturday. The sun was shining, and the air was not yet hot, as people ventured through the parking lot full of vendors on Church and Chestnut Streets.

My little Market Goer, Lucy, was decked out in a patriotic tee-shirt. Although she was too young to really enjoy a Snow Cone, she was still very excited about the Market. One of the reasons Lucy loves the Market: DOGS. Every Saturday, big dogs and little dogs alike prowl the Market with their owners. At her level, Lucy gets a great view of the friendly animals. As we are grabbing tomatoes and listening to music, Lucy is squealing in delight over the dogs that are perfectly in her eyesight. What fun!

Snow Cones were a huge success this weekend! Everywhere you looked, people were chipping away at their frozen treat, and you could see lips stained with every color you could imagine. People seemed to enjoy that the WCGM went the extra mile to find ways to celebrate Independence Day! (And did I mention they were FREE?!?!)

This week's Market Musicians, , were also a festive noise! They had quite the ensemble of instruments and musicians, producing a real folksy sound. I appreciated the cover songs they did, my favorite being "I Walk The Line" by Johnny Cash (the man, the myth, the legend). It's always fun to walk around the Market to GOOD music and songs you know!

Ellen April's Homemade Soap stand was buzzing. I tried to stop in for a quick conversation, but she was delightfully overwhelmed by customer after customer! As I was peering over the soaps, deciding what to sample after my present soaps run out, I noticed Market Goers were really intrigued by the Lemon Fizz, a soap that is benefitting Alex's Lemonade Stand. As you can see, the Market gives back!

We are still working through the jug of homemade Root Beer that we purchased a week ago from the vendors at Oak Shade Cheese. My husband absolutely loves it! Once we are down to the last drop, we are planning on getting some more before it goes out of production for the season! I highly recommend it!

Lastly, I was excited to see all of the BERRIES at the Market this weekend. It was like Berry Season had exploded! Up until now, I had seen some juicy strawberries. This past Saturday, there were several stands of Strawberries, Blackberries, Raspberries and Blueberries. They looked so great! There were also a few stands with White Corn - but I did not actually get to witness their debut, as the corn was gone INSTANTLY. The only indication of their presence were signs next to empty boxes. What a hit! Hopefully next week I can get my hands on a few ears of corn to serve alongside some grilled meat and veggies.

Between the music, the Berries and the Snow Cones, I would say this 4th of July Market was a celebratory success! The only thing that would have made it better?

...If I had gotten some corn to take home with me. Next time!

There is more to come this weekend, so check back on Friday for this weekend's Market Preview. Have a great week!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

This Weekend - July 4 - At the WCGM!

Not only is this Saturday another Grower's Market, but it is also July 4: Independence Day (and, no, I am NOT talking about the movie starring Will Smith). What better way to start the Holiday Weekend then to head over to the corner's of Church and Chestnut Streets and celebrate with WCGM Vendors and Market Goers alike? Believe me, there is plenty to check out and celebrate!

First, let me say that I am personally excited over the WCGM's celebratory promotion this weekend: FREE SNOW CONES. That in and of itself is enough to draw a crowd. Snow Cones will be available during regular market hours (9am-1pm).

The Market will be offering more and more fruit as we head into mid-Summer. (It's good to know What's Fresh at the Grower's Market). Keep an eye out for North Star Orchard in the upcoming weeks for their first appearance at the WCGM. They are waiting until their fruit crop is PERFECT, and when it is, they will come with their bounty! If not this week, continue to check back. Be sure to get to the Market early to grab some fresh fruit for your Independence Day cookouts. I will happily taste-test your fruit salads or warm fruit pies...

If you have the opportunity to pick up some fresh asparagus from any of our fine vendors, here is a great side dish for your 4th of July BBQ's:

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Roasted (or Grilled) Asparagus
  • 1 bunch Asparagus
  • 1 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Minced Garlic (I usually use jarred)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Pinch of Pepper

Prepare asparagus spears by snapping off tough woody bottoms (bend the stalk at it's natural breaking point, about 1 to 2 inches from base). Rinse and place on a roasting pan (with sides). Drizzle with Olive Oil. Sprinkle Garlic Powder, Minced Garlic, Salt and Pepper over the stalks. Toss to combine evenly.

To Roast: Keep asparagus on roasting pan. Place in 400º oven for 8-10 minutes, shaking pan halfway through.

To Grill: Using tongs, place asparagus on grill, perpendicular to grates. Grill 5 minutes on each side, or until tips start to brown.
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As you enjoy nurse your snow cone, be sure to stop in at Ellen April's Handcrafted Soap. One thing to be excited about this week is a specialty soap Ellen has made to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand. I stopped by last week, and got to take in the scent of the Alex's Lemonade Stand soap. It was perfect and citrusy! All proceeds will benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand organization.

With Snow Cones on the schedule, fresh produce and good music sure to follow, you will not want to miss out on this week's Market! Stop in and stay a while...


Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunshine, Root Beer and Spring Mix

I don't think Market Goers could have asked for better weather for this weeks Grower's Market. I arrived around 11, and it was a flurry of activity. I usually get to the Market around 9:30am, and that hour and a half certainly makes a difference. While there were plenty of people milling about, a few of my favorite stands were rapidly selling out of their produce!

My first stop was Bryer Apiary, as it was the only time I would see them for another 4 weeks (they have a stand at the WCGM the 3rd Saturday of each month). I hemmed and hawed over my choices, but eventually decided on a 24 ounce squeeze bottle of their dark variety. (Later that morning, I toasted a slice of Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread from Big Sky Bakery Co, and drizzled it with Bryer's dark honey. Can I say YUM?!?).

Speaking of Big Sky Bread, their stand was hopping, as usual. I refrained from buying more bread, as we are still working through the AH-MAZ-ING Honey Wheat and Cinnamon/Raisin/Walnut loaves from last week. (Confession: I've had at least once slice of the C/R/W bread per day since last week. Sometimes twice a day. And a few times for dessert). Their bread is so tasty, and I feel good that they are additive and preservative free. Perhaps we'll finish the loaves this week, and can go back for more next Saturday.

On our way around the circle, I stopped at Red Earth Farm for a bag of Spring Mix. So far, we have never been disappointed with the produce from Red Earth Farm! I appreciate being able to get whatever size bag of Spring Mix I'd like, and have the ability to pay per ounce/pound.
Moving along the parking lot, I stopped in to chat with Jeff Porter from the Chile Spot. More to come later this week on some of his products. I did sample some Peach Mango Habenero Jam, and it was spicily (is that a word?!?) delicious. This was the first time I noticed that the Chile Spot has T-Shirts for sale with their logo. Note to self: Pick up a T-shirt at some point this summer...

As we browsed, we got to take in the music from this week's Market Musicians: Richard Cole and his daughter. Their music was absolutely festive. I can only continue to go on and describe their sound as "FULL." So many different sounds and auditory textures to listen to. I was really impressed!

Paul Hauser personally greeted me at Maple Hill Farm's stand. I picked up a beautiful head of broccoli and already-shelled peas. Paul proudly boasts that he uses no chemical sprays on his produce. (Sidenote: Those fresh peas were made into fresh baby food this morning. Mixed with carrots, they had the most wonderful aroma! Hopefully Lucy will enjoy them...)

As we conversed, Paul put to words something I had noticed about the market: It WCGM hope that people can find stuff at their Grower's Market that they can't find in a regular grocery store. Well said. That comment made my eyes more open to see what new and interesting things I could try.

My last stop was Ellen April's Handmade Soaps. While I checked out what new items were in this week, my husband, Bill, ventured to purchase some homemade Root Beer from the vendors at Oak Shade Cheese. (After trying some on Sunday, my husband stated, "Now THIS is what Root Beer is SUPPOSED to taste like." You can't argue with that.)

I left Ellen April's with some soap entitled 'Snow On Cedar's.' First, I love the name. Second, I can say from first hand experience I LOVE the scent of this soap. We have it by our kitchen sink presently, so it is getting lots of use. Bill said it best: "If I had a mountain house, I would have this soap at every sink." It smells super fresh and foams up nicely. I also grabbed a small bottle of Lemon Rosemary olive oil and honey lotion. It's fragrant and really smooth.

So many vendors, so little time...but SO MUCH to look forward to! The Market Calendar is jam-packed with events. Check back later this week for the fun things happening this coming weekend (July 4th - Independence Day) at the WCGM. You won't want to miss it!

Friday, June 26, 2009

This Weekend - June 27 - At the WCGM!

Another weekend, another WCGM! I’m happy to report that we have somehow found favor again in the eyes of Glenn 'Hurricane' Schwartz, Cecily Tynan, John Bolaris, and Mother Nature, as they are forecasting sunny skies and beautiful temperatures for Saturday morning. This is a far cry from last weekend’s weather. With temps in the low 80's, and the sun bright in the sky, I would say we are in for "Perfect Grower's Market Weather."

Thank YOU, local news station weather forcasters.

With nothing to hold back Market Goers, the WCGM will be going strong from 9am – 1pm. June is almost behind us, so we can rest assured that Market will be yielding more and more fruit. Come check out the fresh produce, soaps, baked goods, cheeses and jarred preserves. This weekend we should have an appearance from Bryer Apiary’s honey as well!

Last week, I shared with you one of the many reasons I have a growing love for the West Chester Grower’s Market. This week I will share with you reason #2:

They care about the environment

The Earth we live on is at the heart of what these Market Vendors do. I’m hoping one of these days I can go and check out one of our Market farms. I would love to see what it takes to keep up with the produce they grow, the livestock they raise, and the ground they till. There is a direct relationship with the work our vendors labor for and the environment: our world is their inspiration, the precious soil beneath our feet is their canvas, and the Great Outdoors is their boardroom. The EARTH is their profession. I have a huge respect for that. I find comfort in the face that most (if not all) of the produce and products sold at the WCGM are natural, organic and/or environmentally friendly.

How can you not love that?!?

Even the events at the WCGM have the environment in mind: One highlight for this weekend is the Composting Demonstration, which will be presented at 10:00am by the Chester County Extention Service. Come learn about the benefits of composting and how to begin composting at home. Those who signed up and paid $20 last week will be able to take a composter home and put their newfound knowledge to use!

Weekend Market News:

1) Composting Demonstration – 10am

2) Next week (July 4) – Come celebrate July 4th and get free snow cones! More info to come.

I hope to see you at the Market this weekend. Come out, and show not only your support for the community, but also for the world we live in.

Check in early next week for highlights from my Market visit, and for a preview of upcoming events!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Allow Myself to Introduce...Myself...

Hello! I thought it might be appropriate to quickly introduce myself, as you might be wondering who the "Steph A" is that has recently be posting on this blog.

So, as you might have gathered, my name is Steph, and I am a native West Chesterian, as is my husband, Bill. We were both born in Chester County Hospital and graduates from Henderson High School and West Chester University. We moved away briefly, but couldn't stand being away for more than a year. It is our intention to grow old and gray in West Chester, raising our children (at this point we have just one, Lucy) with the same passion for this town as we have.

I am currently taking on the new life of a stay-at-home mom, and all that entails. I also have a dangerous relationship with Ice Cream. My husband is an English teacher for the West Chester Area School District, and loves every minutes of it. His newest endeavor is commuting the 3 miles to work on a '79 Schwinn bicycle he purchased off of Craigslist. Lucy, our 11 month old, is still getting a grasp on what this world is all about. She has a big personality, and I believe she finds life humorous, because she laughs a LOT.

We love the community here, and feel that the West Chester Grower's Market embodies the sense of camaraderie and spirit that we ourselves love to foster. Having grown up here, it is meaningful to find a group that appreciates this area as much as we do. Buy Fresh, Buy Local has become an important cause for us, as we have begun to understand the value of our environment, local agriculture, local business and community. We are taking small steps to become more earth-friendly, and we know that every step makes a difference. So, while we still have a long way to go, we are heading in the right direction.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to chronicle my experiences at the WCGM, as I recently entered the blogging world a few months ago. I started my other blog as a place to unload and process about my new life as a stay-at-home mother/my love for cooking and baking/my journey to be more Green/other various and sundry things. I am looking forward to shifting my focus for THIS blog, and sharing about my weekly trips to the Market.

I hope that you can find good information about what is going on at the Market and upcoming events. Even more, I hope you can get a real glimpse into the world of a passionate Market Goer. Feel free to contact me or leave comments with your own thoughts, experiences or ways the WCGM has inspired your life!

Hope to see you this Saturday morning!

Vote for the West Chester Grower's Market!!!

If you are reading this, it is because you have come to love the West Chester Grower's Market. If you are anything like me, you wake up on Saturday mornings giddy and ready to head to the corners of Church and Chestnut Streets, excited to find new produce and products to take home. I love the laid-back atmosphere, often noted with music and familiar faces. Our vendors truly care about the earth, their community, and the produce and products they bring forth each week.

The first time I checked out the WCGM website, I was really impressed as I read about the history of how it started. Even more impressive is how the market has grown and flourished in it's 15 year lifespan. We can all look forward to many years more!

Let your passion for the West Chester Grower's Market show by voting for them in not 1 but 2 Farmer's Market contests!

The second contest is the Care2/LocalHarvest Contest.

These contests not only show our support to the WCGM, but it can help them win some some great resources to make the Market even better. I don't know about you, but I think the WCGM is top notch, and more deserving than any other market out there!

So, with the community supporting them, let's see if the West Chester Grower's Market can win as America's Favorite Farmer's Market!

Vote NOW!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Rain, Rain, and a Pie Eating Contest

Most Saturdays, West Chester townsfolk look forward to eating a quick breakfast at Nick's Cafe, grabbing a coffee from Fennario, and heading down to the West Chester Grower's Market. But last Saturday, we woke up to a dreary sky full of rain, rain... and more rain. One could not help but think that people would be steering clear of the West Chester Grower's Market open market atmosphere in hopes of sparing their clothes and hair from being drenched.

Well, you obviously don’t know the West Chester Grower’s Market patrons.

Let me tell you: WCGM Market Goers are HARDCORE. I was so impressed when I arrived at the Market (the first time, seeing as I had to leave and then come back after being hindered by a freak downpour during my first arrival), fearing a lonely aisle of forlorn vendors, only to find the normal bustle of cloth grocery bags, dogs, kids, adults and friendly conversation.

I peered out of my car window through dense rain, with a baby in tow, and resolved to come back after said baby’s nap (as she would have never survived the weather at the time).

Our second arrival was much more successful. We showed up a good 2 and-a-half hours later than usual, and the Market was still going strong. Folksy lyrics, backed by stringed instruments, wafted through the air as Blue Horizons, this weeks Market musician, serenaded the crowd.

Lucy (my little Market Goer) and I checked out this week's wares, and decided to try some new goodies. Pan loaves at Big Sky Bread Company were half off, and they all looked tasty, but we settled on sampling a loaf of Honey Wheat and a loaf of Cinnamon Walnut. I was glad to hear that Big Sky bread has no additives or preservatives, and was reminded by the vendor to store the loaves in a cool place for best keeping (Big Sky kindly packages their loaves in freezer bags to help their customers enjoy their bread longer).

After Big Sky, we stopped at Elkdale Farm for some veggies. The tomatoes were red and plump, and we could not resist the temptation. So, we left with 2, which I am now certain will not be enough to last us the week.

Ellen April Handcrafted Soap was next on our list. This week I picked up a bar of Bliss and a sample of Lemon Thyme. I will let you know how they rate compared to the rest of the soaps we’ve sampled (Ocean Breeze, a light, refreshing soap, and Wake-up Call, which currently holds First Place in our household).

I did quick check-in’s at some of the other vendors: The Chile Spot (we’re still working through a jar of their Hot Sweet Red Pepper Jalapeno Jam) and Highland Farm. I eyed up some homemade root beer from Oakshade Cheese, but did not have time to purchase any. Perhaps next week.

Our last stop was Stargazer’s Vineyard, where I sampled the Dornfelder wine. This wine, I was told, "is a great red wine for white wine lovers.” Being partial to white wines, I’d have to agree. It has lower tannins and a lovely taste. I was sad to hear that this would be their last appearance at WCGM until September, as they are gearing up for an exciting summer at their vineyard. Some great events are lined up for July 4th weekend, with the new release of a wine called Greuner Veltliner Arnesis. If you are looking for a good time over the Independence Day holiday, check out Stargazer’s website and head over for the festivities, including wine tastings, tours, great music and food. Check back at The Market toward the end of the summer for their comeback!

Sadly, because of our thwarted first arrival attempt, I missed the Pie Eating Contest altogether. [To anyone who was wondering, NO my husband did NOT participate, much to my dismay.
He mumbled something about a pie allergy, and I shook my head disapprovingly. Should you bump into us at the Market in the future, you have my full permission to give him a hard time. For the record, he DID regret missing out after he saw the awesome commemorative t-shirts given to participants].
Although we missed the contest, I was glad to hear it was a successful event, with a handful of brave dads stepping up to the plate. I was informed that the Contest Winner was head and shoulders above the rest, with Jeff Porter from the Chile Spot as a close second. Market Goers believe the winner’s strategic usage of goggles gave him a hand in his victory.

It was a great Market weekend, despite the weather, and there is another great weekend coming up. Check back on Friday for a Market Preview for details!

Have a great week!