Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Down on the farm

When I was a child there was a small, insulated box that sat on the step outside the kitchen door. In the morning, as my sister and I were getting ready for school, my grandmother would reach out the door into that box and bring in the two quart bottles of milk that had been placed there in the pre-dawn hours.

I don’t remember when the milkman stopped delivering, but I do remember the odd taste that the milk in the bottles from the grocery store had. It took a while to get used to blended, pasteurized milk, but I adjusted. Years later, I married a dairy farmer’s daughter and enjoyed that wonderful taste of fresh milk whenever we visited her folks in Wisconsin. Their dairy farm is gone now, sold to a large agricultural corporation when my in-laws retired.

Like most folks, I love the taste of fresh food. I’m sure I have told the story of picking apples at the orchard up the road and the kindly elderly woman that would press those apples into cider. I was fortunate to grow up in a small community surrounded by farms.

One by one, all of my favorite places to buy fresh food have faded into nothing more than fond memories. The milkman, the butcher shop, the bakery, and the roadside stand were as hard to find as the cobbler that once resoled our shoes.

Fortunately, after several scares with the safety of food imported from far off lands, farmer’s markets are making a comeback. I have been shopping at the farmer’s market in Petersburg, Virginia for the past few years. Along with the fresh produce, grass fed beef, free range chickens, and goat cheese, there is always a jam session going on, all of it fresh and local. Now that’s my idea of shopping.

John Dilleshaw - Farmer's Blues.mp3

Carolina Tar Heels - Got the Farm Land Blues.mp3

The Strange Creek Singers - Poor Old Dirt Farmer.mp3

Flatt and Scruggs - The Homestead on the Farm.mp3


Blogger stclare said...

I like this story. I grew up and am growing up in a suburb outside of detroit and I have always yearned for the small town feel. I go every year apple picking north of where I live just to get the feeling of being out in the country.

I bet your town was just beautiful.

August 07, 2007 9:12 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Good post. I remember the silvery-looking box too, and the milk that was left. I also recall how the cream would rise to the top of the bottle and my Mother would pour it off and keep it separate to put into my Dad's coffee.

August 07, 2007 9:29 PM  
Anonymous john said...

Thanks for reminding me!
I have to get to the Farmer's Market this morning. The peaches this year are fantastic and my wife will kill me if I miss today's batch.

August 08, 2007 9:46 AM  
Blogger Firefly said...

That's interesting. I like it.

August 08, 2007 12:45 PM  
Blogger jasahuja said...


i m sure every1 who had read this wud have felt a bit nostalgic in 1 or the other way.


Comment on my post at

August 08, 2007 1:53 PM  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Hello Ed, Only knew big cities and front porch memories. Along with the milk delivery there was the watermelon wagon. Pulled at a tilt by a slow horse and the barking of an old man pratically psalmodizing the word wat'y melon wa'ty melon. It took on the color of a religious ceremony everyone came runnin'. Food has memory ! I'm not all that old but culture presses on and thus something to write about. The farmer's market was a great neighborhood event when I lived in NYC. Where I live now the market itself is a jam session. As for imported food New Yorkers used to call it designer eating. The way around all that is to take the train, the boat, the plane and suddenly the bad press is somewhere else and designer cheese is just an ordinary everyday affair. Bon appetit !

Bravo Blue bus - an impressive music history source.

all thoughts fly... k.

August 08, 2007 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Besides all of the great memories you've listed, did you ever have the knife man? He would wander the streets of neighbourhoods, ringing his bell. People would bring out their knives or garden tools. He would sharpen them on the spot, and he did a much better job than any professional operation ever did. Or was this phenomenon distinctly for my area of southern Ontario, Canada? Anyway, it was usually an old German or Amish gentleman who pushed the cart, and it usually happened late each Saturday afternoon. Thanks for reminding me!

August 08, 2007 5:36 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

It seems I'm not alone in my preference for fresh, local food.

Stclaire and Black Dog, I suppose one needn’t grow up in the country to enjoy fresh food directly from the grower.

Dan, I had forgotten all about the knife man! As I recall, the one that came down our street only came once a month.

There is something more satisfying about dealing with the producer of the goods we buy.

August 08, 2007 8:41 PM  
Blogger Michael Y said...

I've recently become a bigger fan of fresh food myself. I've been getting milk from local farms and have tried to check out a farmers market every now and then. It's amazing how much difference there actually is.

August 08, 2007 9:22 PM  
Blogger brittn13 said...

True that. I love fresh food. I've grown up in farming areas and have always had some kind of fresh food. Homemade jam, applesauce, just-picked veggies and not to mention fresh salmon we catch ourselves. I really hope those days are coming back.

Wonderful story.

August 08, 2007 9:47 PM  
Blogger ein Brummkreisel said...

interesting .. i lived in a small town (in india) and have always had fresh local produce and now that I live in a city, I'm nostalgic..

Great story!

August 09, 2007 1:35 AM  
Blogger Jim H. said...

The egg man came to our neighborhood once a week. An Amish gentleman in a horse-drawn buggy. He'd deliver a couple dozen fresh eggs and take our empty egg cartons to re-use. I recall my parents leaving money in the front hall -- he'd come in, leave the eggs and leave the change.

Each fall, the same Amish farmer would slaughter a steer or two and sell the meat from his buggy. May dad always looked forward to that.

August 09, 2007 9:12 AM  
Anonymous john said...

Back from the Market and the peaches ARE fantastic.

I remember when I worked in The Projects a guy would pull up every Saturday afternoon with his pick-up. He'd sealed the truck bed, flooded it, and sold swimingly fresh catfish and carp out of the back. Entrepreneurship at it's best!

August 09, 2007 10:06 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Michael y, brittn13, & ein brummkreisel,
I’m glad to see that farmer’s markets are becoming popular once again.
There really is nothing like fresh, locally produced food.

August 09, 2007 7:37 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Jim H.,
Great story of the egg man!

For several years now, I have been buying all of my beef from a fellow who raises free-range, grass fed beef. There is no comparison with the stuff they sell in the grocery store.

August 09, 2007 7:44 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Sounds like the ultimate fisherman’s tale. Entrepreneurial indeed!

August 09, 2007 7:46 PM  

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