By Jim Duncan CVFDude@aol.com
Junction Farmers Market
longtime supporter of many area
farmers markets, I resented the
inclusion of non-farmers and phony
farmers for years. Some “farmer”
vendors are now selling produce
that is covered with wax and stickers.
Prepared food vendors at local
markets rarely use farm fresh
foods, as they are required to
do in the real farmers markets
around the country. Too often
in Central Iowa, our real farmers
are being exploited to promote
the neighborhoods that host them
— the purpose being to attract
the biggest crowd possible, meaning
people who don’t give a hoot about
sustainable agriculture, heirloom
tomatoes or free ranged pigs.
Real farmers can get lost in this
crowd. But how lost?
I visited three consecutive
Valley Junction Farmers Markets
at dinnertime and stood at the
edges counting people who were
walking away in the direction
of parked cars. Each week I counted
to 200 people while also counting
the number who were carrying groceries.
I even included people who were
carrying nothing more than dry
pasta that had been made by a
wholesale company in Colorado.
During those three weeks the secondary
head counts averaged 20 people.
So it seems that fewer than one
out of 10 VJFM visitors actually
buys something from farmers. For
most people, VJFM is a food court
on wheels. Based on three weeks
of grazing, it’s still better
than any mall food court around
Week one: I started with a bag
of cheese curds from the much-praised
Creamery from Van Buren County.
These are made only from hand-milked
cows on Amish farms and represent
a way of life that would not exist
were it not for the Creamery.
(Modern dairies no longer pick
up milk pails and the Amish won’t
convert to new milking technologies.)
For my entrée, I went with
a brisket sandwich from Smokehouse
of Dallas Center. It was specially
cut as requested, and generous
for $5. I sampled but rejected
three very sweet sauces. Then
I paired my brisket with a side
of vegetarian lo mein from Roll
For dessert, I had Michael Leo’s
(Salzburg Café) apple strudel
with Bavarian cream. The Austrian
pastry chef told us he’s hoping
to be back in the brick and mortar
food scene soon.
Week two: I began with some white
cheddar from the Creamery and
an expertly seasoned pork sandwich
from Flying Mango, balanced with
raw fresh asparagus, sold by real
farmers. For dessert I had a mini
gooseberry pie from Mom’s Best,
Chloe Rodish’s kitchen in Cumming.
Week three: I began with appetizers
from Stanhope Locker, buying some
dried beef after sampling half
a dozen other meats. I followed
that with a wheat grass shot from
Fresh Café and Market.
Being a wheat grass virgin, I
couldn’t judge it, but I felt
really good about drinking it.
I looked at some Tavern pizza,
but if I wanted pizza I would
go indoors and order it fresh
from their ovens. I considered
Los Primos, but noticed their
chef being indifferent to high
flames scorching his chicken.
I considered Greek House’s gyros,
but meat was being sliced too
fast before it achieved the kind
of sear I want. La Bamba was busy
providing generous $5 dinners,
but tortillas looked stiff. So
I settled on a seductive Cajun
dog, slathered in Cajun grinder
meat, from Simo’s. I paired it
with a potato cutlet from Saloo’s,
a familiar face at farmers markets
for as long as I can remember.
I also bought some pickled chutney
from her and then finished with
Uncle Wendell’s excellent raspberry
pecan cream cake. I took home
a whole strawberry-rhubarb pie
from Mast Family Farms.
I enjoyed Tropical Sno’s snow
cones, made with real cane sugar
syrup, like soft drinks used to
be. Several local wineries offered
bottles of their product, mostly
in the $10 to $13 range.
The hot new summer junk food
on the fair circuit is a dill
pickle marinated in Kool Aid…
The Market at Jordan Creek offers
a Middle Eastern cooking class
at 6 p.m. on July 10. Reservations
are $95 per person, $125 per couple.
Call 309-1332. … The two local
Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que’s are
now smoke-free. CV
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