I woke up before anyone else. My house was quiet, except for the persistent gurgling of my favorite coffee percolator and my hound dog who reminded me that she needed to be let.out.right.freaking.now. (She doesn’t quite understand Saturdays, when her schedule gets skewed from all this sleeping in nonsense.) I’d been waiting all week, nay all SEASON, for this day…the annual kickoff of another summer of fresh food from the Woodstock Farmers’ Market. (Sidenote: the actual kickoff had happened one week earlier, but I was on a press trip, so I had to miss it.)
Over the winter, the market had undergone some changes. For one, the name had changed to the “Woodstock Farm Fresh Market.” And secondly, as a testament to uphold this new name, a rule was put in place that vendors must now grow 85 percent of the food they sell, and they will be subject to inspection to ensure that, indeed, the food is fresh and local. The market is now running every Saturday through October 29th, from 8:30-12. (For more info, including vendor applications, visit the official city website.)
With all of this in mind, I scurried about hurriedly, finding my favorite multi-colored “hippie” market bag that I’d scored from the downtown boutique “Be You on Purpose,“ grabbed my camera and some cash and hit the road to Main Street. I hooked a right on the one-way street next to Cupcakalicious, and saw that a few others (okay, many others) had woken up with the same agenda as I had. The lot was full of market groupies, but I managed to snag a parking space on my second go-round. The Weather Channel app had called for an overcast day with no chance of rain, so I left my Barnes & Noble “First Lines of Literature” umbrella in the car. (This will become an important tidbit later in my story.)
Now, I have a tried-and true “system” in place, as I am such a creature of habit and ritual. Upon arrival at the market, without fail, I always seek out Nichelle Stewart from Rockin’ S Farms to see what she’s blessed us with. On this particular occasion, she had buckets of gorgeous, hand-picked strawberries, leafy-green kale, and the most beautifully pink-stalked Swiss-chard that you’d ever laid eyes on. She also was selling jars full of ambrosia-like strawberry and peach habanero jelly, the samples of which taunted me from their cream cheese/jelly laden Ritz crackers. But let’s talk for a minute about those strawberries. (And by default, let’s consider the farmers who planted, maintained, prayed over, and picked those strawberries.) I knew the night before had been a rainy, muddy mess, and I knew that Nichelle had been out there in that rain, at 10 o’clock the night before the market picking, and then stayed up until the wee hours of morning transferring them from one bucket to another so they wouldn’t be too damp to sell the next day. Some might do well to recognize the ripeness of the fruit, or maybe acknowledge the longer stems that come from hand-picking, or might even and appreciate the color and scent of what “real food” is supposed to be like. But getting to know Nichelle and Tim Stewart has helped me to see something else: the love that’s hidden in between and underneath every single thing that they sell at the market. Food is love, I’ve always been told, and I can’t think of a place that this rings truer than the Rockin’ S stand at the Woodstock Farm Fresh Market.
My second stop is always a beeline toward Tomi’s crepe stand. You can usually discern it by looking around for the longest line, leading up to the best made-to-order crepe you’ll find anywhere outside of Europe. Tomi has mastered both sweet and savory crepes, depending on what you’re in the mood for. I usually go the spinach and cheese route, but you can also find some nutella concoctions that will blow your mind.
Here Tomi prepares a from-scratch crepe, after which he’ll dazzle the kids (and their parents) by flipping it in the air.
Marie, of Candler Park’s Palacsinta, can often be found with Tomi, selling her awesome Hungarian bread and bacon biscuits. This time around, she had a surprise for us: the typical Hungarian street food called “Langos,” a fried bread dish covered in cheese, sour cream, and fresh garlic. I’m already a fan!
Not too long after recovering from my Hungarian street food high, the drizzle and mist that had been hanging around did the unexpected…it turned into a full-on camera-gear-destroying deluge. I decided to duck into the K. Jones Farms tent to preserve my equipment and take a closer look at what they had to offer. Rows of healthy flowers and herbs lined their tables, and I quickly realized that I was going to need plenty of them. (They even carried the official Woodstock city flower, the Miss Huff lantana!) I walked away with rosemary, basil, a sweet pepper, and of course, the lantana.
Across from me, crooning their hearts out through the downpour, were Jonathan and Abby Peyton, two of my favorite Woodstock musicians. They had just enough time to belt out some of my favorites, including their duet “Love Me So” (check it out below) before they, too, had to unplug their equipment and head for dryer ground.
This K. Jones Farms pepper plant was already nicely watered when I packed it into my car.
Jonathan Peyton serenaded the market with some harmonica and guitar in his folk rock set.
As adults, if we’re not careful, we lose something. The merriment. The wonder. The unbridled joy of playing in the rain. We stood there, safe under our tents, waiting out the rain, and we were reminded by this little lad a very important lesson about what it means to simply love life. Thank you, little one, for the smiles and the splashes and the delight.
A Calla lily for sale at the K. Jones Farms tent.
A rosemary plant, now mine (!) from the K. Jones tent.
A family enjoyed the cool morning on the Elm Street Green behind the market.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite songs by Abby and Jonathan, that will also now forever be linked to that beautiful rainy day on Market Street. (Video shot by Kevin Ihle, and the song can be purchased on iTunes.)
Until next time, Woodstock…
Much Love, Jennifer
Jennifer Carter is a freelance photographer and writer living with her family in Woodstock, Georgia. Her work has been published by the Marietta Daily Journal, the Cherokee Tribune, Cherokee Life Magazine, Cobb Life Magazine, Woodstock Patch, and the city of Woodstock’s tourism brochure. The “I Love Downtown Woodstock” blog is what she considers a “passion project,” an experiment in homage that she calls “A Collection of Love Letters to a City.” See more of her work at jenwanders.com.