Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Visiting Gastonia

Life doesn't leave much time for blogging, but Larry and I had such a nice experience in Gastonia, North Carolina, that I thought I would share it.

We were on our way home from the National Congress of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Larry's responsibilities as congress chairman had made our time in Williamsburg pretty hectic, so we took a leisurely couple of days to meander home.

Dinner with Frances in Virginia Beach, and then a drive through the farm country of south Virginia to reach our old vacation grounds at Nags Head in the Outer Banks. The ferries were going to eat up most of a day so we took a right turn at Manteo and crossed over to the mainland. At the beginning of the bridge we found a touristy spot where they sold driftwood and seashells. We found some flower arranging treasures there and it started us thinking about what we might be missing as we speed along the interstate.

At Exit 17 on I-85, Larry turned off. The sign said there was a Shiele Museum and Planetarium, and another sign pointed to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, a lovely garden which we had visited in it's infancy. We found no further signs to the museum but followed the signs we did see to the Farmer's Market in Gastonia, NC.

Apparently this is a very popular spot since we had to wait to park! We saw people going back to their cars loaded down with bags of various sizes, all bulging with produce. I grabbed one of our big canvas bags and we headed into the big market building. At the first booth inside, Larry was attracted to some beautiful ears of white corn. The Market, at Broad Street and Long Ave., sits near the railroad tracks and we had no trouble finding it as the signs were arrayed along the main road in town.

This makes sense to me - a farmer's market where the produce is actually grown and harvested right there. At home we have a farmer's market where we don't have any idea where the produce comes from, but we are pretty sure it arrived by truck at the BIG Farmer's Market down by the airport.

Locally grown, freshly harvested and not trucked across the country. That makes sense. As a girl, I worked on the truck farm owned by my girlfriend Leigh Ann's parents. We went out in the field early, before the heat of the sun became intense. The black silt became embedded in every pore of your skin. We thinned lettuce and pulled radishes. Back at the house, we floated the radishes in a big horse trough to separate the good from the bad and bunched the good ones together with rubber bands. Then we climbed into the pickup truck to go and sell at the farmer's market. Locally grown, freshly harvested and trucked from New Berlin to West Allis, Wisconsin.

The selection in Gastonia was diverse. Larry chose a softball-sized watermelon and I picked a big, heavy cantaloupe. A locally grown strain of white-skinned cucumbers were intriguing, so we brought some home. The farmer informed me that the small ones we bought would not yield mature seed, but promised to swap with me later in the summer. I will send him some Burnt Russo tomato seeds from our garden.

At the end of the row, on the left side, we met a farmer who insisted that we take two ears of a bi-color hybrid corn named "Obsession". The clear yellow and white kernels were as shiny as glass and he obviously was pretty proud of them since he gave them to us for free. We ate them shortly after arriving home and now we understand the name "Obsession". The small cobs were sweet with generous kernels.

Loaded down with our produce, we made our way toward the door and the car, but stopped to talk with the local Lions who sold us a new broom and told us about where there were other attractions in town.

So we were right to suspect we were zipping past some interesting stuff. We will try to plan more time on our trips to take a few exits we haven't taken before. If you are going that way, the Farmer's Market is open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday during the season. Try the bi-color corn.