A couple weeks ago, Publisher & Editor Lisa Tucker and I visited a few local farms and one local grocer in Niagara County. Although many stops were supplemented by a magazine drop-off, each stop was educational.
Our first destination was Niagara County Produce, a small grocery store in the city of Lockport. A larger open air version of the market exists in East Amherst on Transit Road; however the location in Lockport is the only grocery store in the downtown area. The store is filled with local products, including cheese from Yancey’s Fancy, fresh produce, jams from Joe’s Jammin’ Spread and much more. There are boxed and canned items, a meat/deli counter, a dairy section, and chocolates–sponge candy and an assortment of chocolate-covered nuts made locally.
Our second stop landed us at a pig farm. When we first walked onto T-Meadow farm we were greeted by the crows of a rooster and a flock of chickens. The rooster actually posed for a few pictures, but we later learned that he was quite a vicious fellow! We heard stories of how he bit through a pair of boots and attacks things that are red—including a food dish. They lived in a small house, with a door that I absolutely loved—a “No Standing Any Time” sign. On the farm there were many newborn and baby pigs, and a few sows that were due to have their litter soon. Most of the pigs on the farm go directly to chefs, but there are four that are permanent residents. These are the only pigs that have names, one of them being Cosmo, described as the “laziest pig on the farm.” He certainly played the part, sprawled out in the mud. Completing the spectrum was a boar with a temper, quite easily the most active pig on the farm. The breeds of pigs are older heritage breeds; Tamworth and Gloucestershire Old Spot (GOS) which are best raised on pasture and do not need a diet supplemented by antibiotics.
Next up was Singer Farms for some U-pick cherries. There are many varieties of sweet and tart cherries grown on the farm, and they give you a bucket to collect the cherries from the trees. Before we went out into the field, we talked to Jim Bittner, who is incredibly knowledgeable about the uses of fruit within the capitalist world. It was at this point I had begun to feel under the weather from the heat, but I was refreshed as soon as I sampled some cherries off the trees. The trees are unique in the sense that the fruit off each tree tastes different. We spent some time tree hopping to find the perfect-tasting cherry. Most of what we picked was dark sweet cherries, although we did pick some red tart cherries for pies. As we were leaving we tasted some dark tart cherries, which were so tempting we almost went back to get more. The only reason we didn’t was because of the six pounds of cherries we each had already picked. Although cherries from the grocery store cost a bundle, cherries from the farm are only $2.50 a pound, $2 if you purchase more than ten pounds. Next to the stand where you receive the buckets and have the cherries weighed is a sink. It had a comical appearance, an indoor tub perched on a platform, but it proved quite handy when we came back with sticky hands. There is only about a week left in the cherry season, and fruit picking always provides a great family outing.
Our last big stop of the day was at Tom Tower’s Farm Market in Youngstown. His farm is directly behind the market, so when his produce is picked, it only has a short distance to go before it reaches the market. There is a large variety of fruits and vegetables offered at the store, but it’s not limited to that. There are also herbs and other plants available for purchase. Tom gave us a tour of the farm. Unfortunately the unseasonably cool summer weather has delayed his tomatoes, but they should be ready soon. When we were there, his blueberries were also ready to be picked, and his peaches were almost ready. Tom is the type of farmer who is willing to share his extensive knowledge—especially about farming and French wines. He is an innovative farmer, as seen through his growing of grapes–he understands what the plants need.
In the September, Edible Buffalo will be sponsoring a Feed Your Soul tour throughout Niagara County, and some of the places mentioned here are on the list. On September 13, the Foodie to Farm tour will visit T-Meadow Farms, Arrowhead Springs Vineyard, Tom Tower’s Farm Market and have lunch at Old Fort Niagara with food prepared by Chef Carmelo Raimondi from Carmelo’s Restaurant. Tickets for the tour can be purchased at: Feed Your Soul.
posted by Ashley Zengerski