I returned from visiting Germany’s Black Forest, surrounded by organic and biodynamic farms and eating only fresh local food raised in the green lush countryside. It was thrilling to be just a 25 minute drive from a large city and be completely enveloped in small farms. The vacation was a welcome break and further secured the comfort in knowing from where one’s food comes. Everywhere traveled provided views of pastured cows, goats, sheep, pigs and carefully managed vegetable fields. While farms aren’t as abundant around Marshfield, local food is available through the monthly Farmers’ market offering much that the Black Forest had plus the ocean’s bounty they don’t have.
What could local farmers possibly offer that is fresh at the Marshfield Farmers' Market, and how can it be grown in the cold New England winter climate, you ask? We don’t have to rely on distant mega-farms, instead you may be quite surprised at the variety of vegetables available. The fall was cool but not frigid, that means several types of vegetables were still growing in the fields undamaged by the cold. In fact, the slow cool growth creates intense, delicious and sweet flavors. There is nothing like late fall and early winter carrots. Whether fresh, steamed, roasted, or in soup they are sweet satisfaction.
Fabric or plastic tunnels constructed over the field rows offer additional season extension especially for farmers not benefitting from the tempered coastal weather. Some farms have greenhouses, allowing greater selections of grown vegetables. There is a catch though, the pollinators. The honey and bumble bees as well as the butterflies aren’t active, so growing under cover requires hand pollination or vegetables not requiring pollination. Items like root vegetables, greens, and some seedless varieties are best suited for winter growing, or those easy to hand pollinate.
At the market, one can enjoy hot grass fed beef chili, or a warm Brown Boar Farm sausage sandwich. Brown Boar Farm’s owner, Peter Burrows, lives in Marshfield and raises his heritage pigs with great care and concern, allowing them lots of space in the woodlands of Vermont to forage. His animals can be found digging for roots and grubs as they would naturally in the wild. This is much the way the animals raised in the Black Forest region of Germany live. Raised with care and concern for the animals, how they live, what they eat and for the end product that is sold directly to the consumer. When a farmer knows his customer and looks them in the eye there is a natural desire to offer the best quality without short-cuts.
Although the Marshfield Farmers' Market does not have any biodynamic farms represented, we can hope that one day soon that farming approach too will return to the region. For now there are certified organic farms, local small farmers following NOP practices offering sustainably raised goods and conventional farms.