In the mid 90s, as a graduate student in Ecological Urban and Regional Planning, I was asked to supervise a group of undergraduates in a research project on the viability of farmers markets. I loved visiting LA’s outdoor food markets, which felt more like a fun outing than doing errands, so I was happy to accept. I did not fully realize, until several years later, the extend to which the many benefits (environmental, economic, nutritional, community-building, etc.) of these markets would grab me and not let me go.
Today, direct farm-to-consumer sales are growing at a rate of 10% per year, twice that of the regular food sector. Farmers markets are consistently increasing in number with a 17% increase in just the past year. More are staying open year round, and despite a down economy, they have supported a growth in the number of small and organic farms. Community supported agriculture (CSA) farmshare options are also expanding. I subscribe to Stonyloam Farm for my summertime vegetables, herbs and flowers, Pete’s Greens for my fall and winter vegetables, and Family Cow Farmstand for a weekly gallon of raw organic milk. Roughly a year ago another direct-sales option was dreamed up in our little town: the online Farmstand Coop. By cleverly combining the convenience of a 24/7 online meeting place with the small scale supply and demand on a very local level, a year round market for vegetables, baked goods, meats, eggs and more was created. I have been a customer for a year, and starting last week, I am now also a producer, selling homemade soups made from local and organic ingredients served in reusable glass jars. I feel a small step closer to the people I have come to so greatly admire: farmers.
My first Market Day Soup:
Potato-Leek with Kale Ribbons
- 3 tablespoons butter (or olive oil or coconut oil)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 leeks, well washed and chopped
- 4-5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 celeriac (celery root), peeled and cubed
- 6 cups of water or vegetable stock (or homemade)
- 1/2 -1 cup milk or cream (optional)
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- kale, stems discarded, cut in thin strips
- handful of parsley
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch Oven or other soup pot. Sauté onions, garlic and leeks over low heat until translucent and starting to caramelize, but not yet turning brown. This should take about 20 minutes, and is worth the wait.
- Add potatoes and celeriac cubes, stir to coat. Add stock, bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow vegetables to cook, about 15 minutes.
- While vegetables are cooking, heat remaining tablespoon of butter in a skillet and saute the kale strips just long enough that they become bright green and crispy.
- Using an immersion blender directly in your soup pot or in batches in a traditional blender, purée your soup to a velvety smooth consistency. The soup will be nicely creamy without the addition of milk or cream, or you can add one or both of these to adjust consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve warm topped with kale ribbons and parsley for color and crunch.