The farm tractor in the distance was rumbling slowly towards us as we stood overlooking the 114 acres known as Mrowka Farm on a crisp, sunny April day on Lower Mountain Road in Lockport. Getting off his tractor, third generation farmer Frank Mrowka greeted my husband Phil and I with a hearty handshake before leading us on a walking tour through deep tractor ruts woven over time throughout his farmland. Dressed in heavy clothing, Frank’s wife Linda was working in the vineyard. She described the chilly spring morning ritual of vine tying but noted that by afternoon there’d be a trail of hats and coats hanging in the rows as the temperature rises. Unlike this brisk spring day, Linda and Frank spend the harshest days of winter outside with their backs to the wind, pruning countless rows of dormant grape vines while studying new growth to determine which vine “arms” are the strongest, for they’re the survivors, or “chosen ones”, that will be the foundation of the upcoming growing season. Linda said, “Sometimes the wind will catch the vine just right and slap you in the face, and when your face is frozen from the cold it really stings!” But when the sting subsides they’re left with the serenity of a winter’s day in the stillness of their vineyard.
With their yellow farm house and red barn standing sentinel behind us, Frank led us through the seemingly endless rows of grape vines tied to poles in perfect symmetry. We continued on through their cherry, apple, pear and plumb orchards, while Frank told the story of how their fruit trees were grouped together over the course of three generations of family farming; and how for one weekend every July Mrowka Farm is open to visitors for “U-Pick” cherries sold by the pound.
We were then delighted when we came upon the “heart” of their honey-making process- the beehives tucked into their own special nook of the farm. It was captivating to hear Frank describe how the bees bunch together by the thousands in their hives over the winter, constantly in motion, like a rotating ball to stay warm and survive; and how new “queens” are brought in each spring to start the cycle over again. Linda said during fall grape harvesting, bees will sometimes hide in bunches of grapes overnight. A surprise sting can wake you up quickly as you’re reaching in to cut a vine!
Linda and Frank- husband and wife team, take great pride in growing the food they sell at various farmers markets across WNY. With weather a factor in the success of their family farm business, their income can be affected by a two minute hail storm damaging a season’s worth of growth; or a lack of rain altogether that can yield an unfruitful crop. They’re also aware that farmers markets are educating our communities about the connection between local farms and the food that graces our tables. Linda expressed her fondness for the human interactions between farmer and customer when she said, “It’s enjoyable to know that our farm has a role in feeding people and many customers that I have come to know greet me with a hug!” Our Farmers Market at the Williamsville Mill’s success is a testament to their commitment in helping to create locally grown sustainable food choices.
Posted by Lynn Schwab, co-founder and manager of the Farmers Market at the Williamsville Mill, is delighted to bring local farmers and food producers to her Village of Williamsville community. Nothing makes Lynn happier than gathering with family and friends over a home cooked meal with food provided by the market of course!