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Field Trip – Journey through Niagara County’s local food & farms

In Field Trip, From the Land on August 2, 2009 at 10:02 am
The 'not so nice' rooster at T-Meadow Farm

The 'not so nice' rooster at T-Meadow Farm

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. 

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Field Trip – Mrowka’s Farm in Lockport, NY

In Field Trip, From the Land on July 26, 2009 at 7:34 pm


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!