December 11, 2012
I started Marche´Me to let people know about the hidden gems I find along my travels. My local travels. I’ve been rather busy lately and that, coupled with the start of school and the changing seasons, has kept my focus elsewhere. I’ve been meaning to post for a while, but had simply not found anything worth writing about…until now.
The holiday season holds many different things for many different people, and I am no different. Born Jewish but raised with Christmas (as a purely secular holiday) I have often felt a subtle conflict about who I am and what I choose to celebrate. This was compounded in the last few years, after my divorce, as I tried to navigate these waters and live my life with my daughter who is heavily influenced by her Christian father and the lure of the holiday season. I can’t say that I blame her as I suppose the latter is what kept me giving a nod to St. Nick for all these years.
I’ve almost always had a Christmas tree, but never had to initiate the purchase. When I was a little kid my dad got the tree and at my mother’s house she set up the Hanukah bush. When I was married, my ex-husband did his duty. Now, for the last two years, I have had to lug that sucker up the stairs by myself.
As if I could not be any luckier in my life, one of my dearest (seriously dearest) friends, Julie Dowd, and her family (husband Greg and two sons) actually own a tree farm! They live in an amazing house on acres and acres of land and several years ago they decided to plant some trees for Christmas. With one wonderful season behind them the Deerfield Tree Farm opened again a few weeks ago and has made buying a tree a most memorable experience.
Last year my daughter and I bought our tree from a vendor in the town where we live. This year we cut one from the ground (okay, Greg did).
We’ve visited the Deerfield Tree Farm twice this season, not only to get our tree, but to simply spend time with our friends. Both times we were there I sat by the fire with Julie (who confirmed that yes, I would smell like fire for the rest of the day) while Greg and his father (we just call him Grandpa) cut and sold. My little miss and her friends Ryan and JT ran through the field chasing Bella (the Dowd’s Great Dane Pup), drank hot chocolate and got dirty. What could be better?
While it was nice to simply sit and catch up with my friend it was just as nice to watch the cars come and go full of families who all brought their own story and experience to the farm.
From the family that drove from Boston (it’s just about a ‘field trip’ from there) for a small tree, to the family that pulled up looking for the “biggest tree you’ve got,” to the family of 8 who came with Santa hats to get a group photo, you can tell the purchase of the tree is equally as important as leaving milk and cookies for you-know-who on the big night. As a matter of fact, you-know-who probably isn’t coming if you don’t have your tree! I also saw families who came ready to work and after being handed a saw watched them walk through the field to cut down their own.
Standing by the fire to warm my hands, my heart was also susceptible as I watched family after family drive off smiling with their tree and what it would mean to their family this year.
The Deerfield Tree Farm is open through December 23. Do yourself a favor and drive right by the street vendors this year.
June 13, 2012
Despite the cold, rainy days that have fallen upon New England this Spring, nothing could quell my excitement when I walked into the newly renovated Volante Farms (Needham, MA) yesterday. Several years ago, when I was going through my Kettle Corn making phase and fantasizing about selling it a local shops like Volante, I wandered in to find a quaint little farm store that sold their “own” picked fruits and vegetables as well as treats (cookies, bread, jelly, etc.) made in a few local kitchens. I thought they would LOVE my Kettle Corn and even went so far to speak to the owner’s daughter about carrying my “brand.” She was open to the idea and asked me to bring a sample by the following week. Well, a few calls to Department of Health and I knew that no matter how much I enjoyed cleaning (yes, I do enjoy it) my kitchen was far away from state certification.
Fast forward to last year when I read an article about Volente Farms and how they were closing their doors, temporarily, for renovation. I drove by a few times and sure enough there was major construction going on. During a routine browse of Boston.com a few weeks ago I read a new article that stated the renovation was complete. Volente Farm was open again for business.
This past Sunday; a beautiful, blue-sky day with the sun shining bright, I had some time to kill and made my way West on Central Avenue in Needham. I began to wonder what they were filling all of that new space with, and then remembered they had the best, fresh-picked sweet peas…ever! Knowing it’s the season for sweet peas, and how my daughter and I love to eat them straight from the pods, I admit I got excited. It’s the little things, don’t you agree? My next thought was, “maybe now is a good time to get that Kettle Corn idea flowing again.” Trust me, you want to taste my Kettle Corn.
As I pulled into the expanded parking lot the same old sign (or maybe it was a new sign that just looked like the old sign) that has been gracing the space for as long as I can remember greeted me. The placards are interchangeable so they can highlight what’s in season, and this week I was in luck…peas and strawberries! That was enough for me. The rest would be a bonus.
As I walked through the double doors you can imagine my delight, especially if you understand my affinity for all things local, when I realized what Volante’s had done and how it aligned beautifully with my philosophies about and appreciation for buying and eating locally grown and produced foods.
Before I show you all of the wonderful things they have at Volante Farm I have to say how proud I was to walk in and learn that the ice cream they sell at their counter (indoor and outdoor service) was from Crescent Ridge. Crescent Ridge is a beloved dairy farm in Sharon, the town where I grew up. I’ve been ordering from the take-out windows on Bay Road, sitting in the grass, and watching cows roam the pastures there since I was a very small child. Although the look and feel of the ice cream stand has changed with the times (digital screen menus, updated logo, outsourcing production), it’s still the same old Crescent Ridge I knew as a kid. A good choice for Volente!
Anyway, the look and feel of the store is still brand new. I can only liken it to a new pair of sneakers – you just want to take them out of the box and get them a little dirty. I couldn’t help but think to myself how great it was going to be once it became a little more “lived-in.” I know they will continue to find and stock more locally made products and once the word gets out about all of the wonderful, fresh, locally grown/manufactured items they sell, the place will look lived-in in no time at all.
Ice cream counter to the left, Sandwich counter and baked goods to the right, locally baked bread, cookies and cakes front and center. Jars and bottles filled with local goodness, freezers full of fresh pasta, ice cream, and other desserts. Long rows of their “own” fresh vegetables, refrigerators full of goat cheese and other locally procured dairy products. Ceramic planters, gardening tools, planting soil. On your way out stop in the nursery for some of the most beautiful flowers you’ve ever seen.
While I would love to, it would be impossible to show and talk about each item individually. While I took lots of pictures (I think I need a real camera for this blogging thing) nothing will take the place of an in-person visit. And, if you can’t make it to Volante, at least take a minute to explore the websites of the products they carry. You never know when you’re going to fall in love with a new flavor.
Volente Farm. Nice people…proud of who they are and what they are doing. You know something? I’m proud of them too!
Eat fresh, buy local!
Nella Pasta, Melville Candy, Eaton Farm Confectioners, Hutchinson’s Candy (Seaside Kettle Corn), Q’s Nuts, Alex’s Ugly Sauce, Wasik’s, Our Favorite, Blue Sky Produce, Giovanna, Mann Orchards, Hillcrest Farm (Auburn, MA. No website), Original Gourmet Creations, Greg’s Old Fasioned Cinnamon Bread (FKBC Inc., no website that I could find), Suzie’s Baking …what can you find locally?