Category Archives: Farmers’ Markets

Feast or Famine

When first committing to Polk Eats Local I had feelings of excitement at the challenge and a bit nervous. While I do pay attention to what I source local because I feel VERY strongly about supporting our local producers and food entrepreneurs( yes it is my job too, which I do because I am passionate about our community and agriculture), I admit I still ‘default’ to convenient foods, the bottom line price sticker and giving in to my ‘wants’ rather than my ‘needs.’  My mom ( remember we are a 3 generation household) reminded me the other day, as we were talking about eating local, that it takes 2 weeks of doing something consistently to make it a habit ( I remembered hearing this years ago and applied it to my need to floss daily).   This reminder got me to pondering if my habit of eating local habit has developed. I have found myself thinking about what is on my plate or where I stop to pick something MORE now than before starting our eat local campaign.  I plan meals more around what I can source local. I think about what I can find local to substitute for a non local food item I normally use- such as pasta, bread and orange juice. I used to be an OJ fanatic. I can now go weeks without having to have it.  Because I have a sensitivity to wheat I have cut out pasta and cut back on breads- this is much better for the waistline too :).

I was on vacation with my family last week(actually, 2 of our 4 adult children agreed to go with the old parents to Florida).    We had a blast!  I had determined to at least be aware of local sourcing while gone. Some of the things I discovered:

A retail food store called Earth Origins had locally sourced oranges and grapes.

We went to a locally owned seafood restaurant one night which had a fresh seafood market connected to it. I almost made myself sick on shrimp.

I picked up a jar of guava jelly. Guavas grow in almost every backyard in Florida. My mother is from Florida. I was almost a teenager before I realized there were other kinds of jelly besides guava. I am serious, we did not have anything in our house except guava. We have not had a good guava jelly in a long time. The jar is almost empty just since Saturday. Same Florida company, same jar design, same taste as when I was young . Ahh the memories.

A bag of Vidalia onions on the way home.  I panic if there are no onions in the house( ask my family, they have seen the panic).

I TOOK to Florida several bottles of local wine and 2 pints of honey as thank you hostess gifts. They were immensely appreciated, along with our pastured pork sausage and ground beef.

Food prep knowledge I learned on vacation – How to correctly and effectively cook bacon to absolute crisp perfection- You will have to find me and ask me. So simple, I can’t believe I was doing it wrong all these years…..

I missed the farmers markets in Polk County this week so I am having to be a bit more creative in my sourcing but this will be a good thing as it will expand my options.

Sunday breakfast- Spelt toast with…..guava jelly.

Sunday Lunch- Work with what you’ve got: Grass fed beef meatloaf that incorporated onions, eggs, a shredded patty pan squash, 2 slices of stale spelt bread, some tomato sauce and Old Mule BBQ for a flavor boost. Placed  meatloaf in a cast iron casserole dish and sliced potatoes on top. Baked for 45 minutes. Side of seared kale from the garden with garlic and sliced tomatoes. Wow it was good. The best part was sharing it with one of our new Americorp members- Ansley Roberts who was in town to secure housing for the new year starting September 1.

Supper- Pork Chops on the grill and some stir-fried cabbage with a diced sweet potato.

Monday breakfast- A poached egg on toast- I hadn’t had one in over a week! Hit the spot.


Cooking Local and Seasonal for Thanksgiving

This week marks the last Columbus tailgate market until the spring.  It is also the weekend before Thanksgiving, and a great time to stock up on necessities for your Thanksgiving feast.  The market accepts EBT and Debit, and even doubles your EBT dollars (spend $10.00 on your EBT card, you recieve $20.00 in tokens).

Often there is a perception that purchasing from the farmers market is more expensive than your local grocery, but in actuality, when things have had a good season, they can be much more affordable when purchased from a local farmer.  Additionally, local produce often boasts greater flavor and nutrition since it has not spent a week on a truck, and is often harvested the day before.  Once produce has been harvested, it begins to lose nutrients, so the sooner it is eaten after harvest, the greater the vitamin and mineral content.

At the Columbus market you will find kale, turnips, sweet potatoes, apples, artisan breads, honey, cider, butternut squash….and the list goes on an on.  Many of these items can be purchased ahead of time and will keep until Thanksgiving.  Local breads can be frozen and defrosted the night before the meal, and there are so many great ones to try!  So, for your Thanksgiving gathering how about trying a local, seasonal recipe that will impress your family with your magnificent cooking skills.

Below I have posted a few recipe ideas I found that seemed simple, tasty, and had a majority of their ingredients in season now.  Local meats and eggs can be found at the market or at the Mill Spring Farm Store.  Feel free to post your favorite recipe in the comments below!

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are good on their own, but if you’re looking for a unique way to utilize them in your meal, here are a few ideas.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes: Here is a twist on a twice baked potato that is usually made with russets (typically a late spring/summer crop)

Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup:  This soup would be a good hearty addition to your meal, and could utilize local sausage and sweet potatoes.

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash can be used for sweet or savory dishes.  It is great roasted with a little honey and cinnamon, or made into a pie or soup.  Here are a couple recipes I thought would be good for Thanksgiving.

Spicy Butternut Squash Meatloaf:

Traditional Butternut Squash Soup:  this is always a favorite, and is pretty simple.  It’s sweet and savory and gives you a lot of soup for very little money.


Of course you have apple pies, apple cobbler, apple crumble, etc.  I decided I would post another option for utilizing apples which would add a healthy, light side to your meal.

Apple Grape and Celery Salad:


Kale is so nutritious and versatile.  You can make really any kind of variation of a kale salad you would like.  I wanted to post my recipe, but I realized I play it by ear and have no idea how much of any ingredient I use.  Below is a recipe that is similar to mine.  The cinnamon is surprisingly delicious.  (I usually roast my pecans in the oven with coconut oil, honey, cinnamon, and cayenne)  They’re tasty on their own, but really make the salad complete.


Turnips are one of those forgotten vegetables, that are actually amazing!  They are great simply roasted with other root vegetables, or added to soups, roasted meats, etc.  Here is a simple recipe to give a try.

Cider Glazed Roots with Cinnamon and Walnuts:

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a personal favorite of mine.  The bitterness that is associated with the vegetable can be taken out by quickly blanching the heads before cooking them.  This recipe looks so good, and is another semi-healthy option.

Brussels Sprout Apple and Bacon Hash:|/275510/brussels-sprout-recipes/@center/276955/seasonal-produce-recipe-guide|953631

Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is as versatile as butternut, and I personally like them cut in half and roasted with brown sugar or maple syrup.  You can also make an acorn squash pie!  Here are some recipes I thought looked tasty.

Acorn Squash and Kale Soup:|/275063/acorn-squash-recipes/@center/276955/seasonal-produce-recipe-guide|257064

Baked Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar|/275063/acorn-squash-recipes/@center/276955/seasonal-produce-recipe-guide|261881


I hope these recipes have inspired you to include at least one seasonal recipe to your Thanksgiving meal!  Don’t forget about the final Columbus Tailgate Market this Saturday, November 22nd from 9 am-12 pm in front of the the Courthouse.  See you there!




All about Pumpkins!

This week, in honor of October’s finest fruit, we will be talking about pumpkins.  

We are also celebrating the pumpkin by giving away pumpkins at the Polk County Tailgate Markets!  Don’t forget to stock up on other great seasonal fall produce, eggs, meats, and crafts after you score your pumpkin!  The Pumpkin Giveaways will take place:

  • October 16th-Tryon (Palmer and Trade Street) 4-6 pm
  • October 17th– Saluda (West Main Street) 4:30-6:30 pm
  • October 18th– Columbus (Courthouse Square) 8-12 pm


  • Pumpkins originated in Central America and were cultivated before Maize.
  • Pumpkin seeds have been found at archaeological sites in the American southwest dating back six thousand years, as well as at sites throughout Mexico, Central and South America, and the eastern United States.
  • The word pumpkin comes from the Greek word pepon meaning “large melon.”
  • The popular Jack-be-little pumpkin is actually a gourd, not a pumpkin.
  • Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October.
  • North Carolina pumpkin acreage has been estimated between 3,000 and 4,000 acres.
  • The origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.  The pumpkin actually served as the crust!
  • Native Americans dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats.


Health Benefits of Pumpkins

  • Pumpkins are a great source of beta-carotene
  • Pumpkin seeds are anti-parasitic!
  • Accoring to the National Institutes of Health, a cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin A, which aids in vision, especially in dim light.
  • Nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are naturally rich in certain plant-based chemicals called phytosterols, which have been shown in studies to reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
  • Pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene, which has been shown to help prevent cancer and wrinkles too!
  • Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino-acid Tryptophan, which is important in the production of serotonin.  So they may make you happier!!
  • A serving of pumpkin has more potassium than that of a banana!

A Unique Pumpkin Recipe

(Pumpkin Pickles)

  • 1 lemon
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 sugar pumpkin (3 to 4 pounds), seeded, peeled, and cut into 1 1/2 × 3/4 × 3/4 -inch pieces
Directions: (45 minutes):
  •  Using vegetable peeler, remove strips of zest from lemon. In large nonreactive saucepan, combine zest, sugar, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, peppercorns, and salt. Simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar, 5 minutes. Add pumpkin. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until pumpkin is crisp-tender, about 15 minutes.
  • With slotted spoon, transfer pumpkin pickles to sterilized canning jars (you will need about 8 half-pint jars or 4 one-pint jars). Pour in cooking liquid to within 1/4 inch of top of each jar. Seal. Refrigerate and use within one week, or sterilize jars following canning jar manufacturer’s instructions for longer storage.

giant_pieThe largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.



Fall is a great time to check out a farm, sip on some warm cider, and pick your own apples and pumpkins.  Even though NC isn’t a huge grower of pumpkins, we have some pick-your own pumpkin farms not far from Polk county.  To find these farms I utilized a great site:  With this website you can search counties or broader regions for specific crops, farms, farm stands, etc.  I did a simple search for pick-your own pumpkin in Western NC, and got a list of several farms to choose from.

One thing to note is that many of these farms do not allow you to actually go out and pick a pumpkin, though there are a few near us.  Instead they let you choose from a variety of pumpkins they have purchased from another farmer and have on site.  The best way to know is to call the number listed before driving out there.

 Enjoy pumpkin season!!


Pressure Canning Chicken at Farmers’ Market

A very special thank you to Dawn Jordan for doing a great job at the Columbus Tailgate Market on Saturday. Dawn shared her pressure canning and poultry expertise with market customers as part of the Discover You Can grant.

A lot of people are intimidated by pressure canning, but the experience seems worthwhile. Dawn slow roasted four chickens to yield six quarts of meat and one quart of broth. At market, Dawn sampled turkey that was pressure canned two years ago. Now, it is easy enough to open the can of turkey, combine with a mirepoix, noodles, and cook to make an easy turkey soup. 

Thanks to Dawn for her canning inspiration! For more on pressure canning chicken, Ball has some great information:


Chef Richard Ruben at Farmers’ Market Tomorrow

I have had the pleasure of meeting Chef Richard Ruben and discussing with him the fine art of cooking which directly preceded having the sudden realization of how terrible I am at cooking. What gets me very excited though is that Richard is willing and wanting to share his knowledge of cooking, preserving, and making the most of our meals.

Tomorrow he will be at the Columbus Farmers’ Market and will lead a guided tour of the market starting at 9 am, looking at fresh produce and expanding the possibilities of how that food can be prepared. In talking with him he opens up another level of cooking that oftentimes can seem unattainable. More Alton Brown and less Wolfgang Puck.

Richard is also the author of The Farmers Market Cookbook which can be purchased online at Amazon

Richard will also be kicking off the Farm Class Series for the Ag Center on Thursday, September 18th from 6 to 8pm. The class is Puttn’ Up, a chef’s guide to learn new preservation techniques. Participants will make and take: Smoky Pickled Okra, Minted Beets, Summer Savory Salt, Sugared Apples, & Tarragon Red Wine Vinegar. Sign up information will be on the Polk County’s Farm website so hurry as only 14 slots are available.

10 Principles for a Successful Farmers Market

Just in time for the Farmers Market Kickoff Potluck, check out these 10 guidelines for a successful market. Come discuss these with other vendors at the Ag Center this Friday at 6PM.

1. A time, location and a season that coordinates the needs of farmers, consumers, and the local community.

2. A central, visible and permanent location.

3. A diversity of products and producers.

4. Fair and enforceable rules and regulations.

5. A strong market manager who is passionate about the market.

6. A management structure that allows for vendor input.

7. A marketing plan that clearly defines a target audience with a strategy for reaching that audience.

8. Adequate Funding.

9. A successful market involves the community in which it serves.

10. Continuous self-evaluation.

Read a detailed explanation of this list at:

Market Vendor applications now available!

Join us for the Tailgate Market Vendor Potluck and become a 2014 market vendor!

Want to be a vendor in Columbus or Tryon this season? We will have information about the upcoming market season at the potluck this Friday evening. Hear what’s new and great about the markets this year, join in a celebratory meal, and register with the market committee.

Information session and potluck: Friday, February 28th at 6pm — Mill Spring Agricultural Center

Download the vendor application:

Farmers’ Market Vendor Potluck

Do you grow fruits or vegetables? Is there a craft that you’d like to bring to the masses? The Columbus and Tryon Farmers Markets are the places to go to get your great product to great people.

Join us THIS FRIDAY at the Mill Spring Ag Center for an informational vendor potluck. Meet vendors! Meet the Committee! It is also a great time to fill out that pesky vendor application and get answers to any of your questions.

6pm – Mill Spring Ag Center