Elizabeth Jones pays a visit to Windybank’s farmer’s market.
Getting up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning is hard, but if the reason is a trip to Windybank Farm Market off Middle Road in Smith’s Parish, it’s worth it.
The trip is not just a grocery shopping expedition; it is a family outing and a chance to show children that produce grows in fields, not in supermarkets. They get to see the fields and meet farmer Malcolm Smith and his wife, Julie Grayston-Smith, of Bouquet Garni gourmet food fame. They also get to meet Oakley, a cute little white, black and tan farm dog, who takes a personal but friendly interest in all the customers.
“This is his day,” says Julie, as she tots up numbers on an old-fashioned adding machine and writes down the items in a book. “All the kids like Oakley.”
Before starting their shopping, customers can help themselves to a hot drink from the Keurig machine and taste one of Julie’s freshly baked orange-glazed cinnamon rolls or blueberry cakes with crunchy tops. At five dollars, they are inexpensive but tasty breakfast snacks.
For the last three years, Malcolm and Julie have run the market in their barn every Saturday from seven in the morning until noon. “We thought, why not stay here to sell our goods,” Julie explains. “We’ve got such a great area, and it’s great for kids.”
From a logistical point of view, it makes much more sense because they don’t have to truck their produce to another location. “After a year and a half,” she says, “the market really took off, thanks mostly to word of mouth.” At least 50 of her customers are weekly regulars who come armed with lists and, as one explains, buy as much as possible. While many come from the vicinity, others come from as far as Somerset.
These days it is wise to arrive early for the best selection. On arrival, customers can immediately smell the fragrance of fresh vegetables and fruits, the pungent tang of newly picked herbs and the enticing aroma of homemade baked goods. Once at the barn, their expressions melt into smiles as their eyes take in the colourful display of every vegetable and fruit in season: garden-fresh carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, yams, mustard greens, kale, cabbages, bananas, tomatoes and avocados, to name but a few.
One lady enthuses over the freshness of the spinach: “It never goes mushy before I can eat it.” For her, the vegetable market is a treasure trove since she is a vegan, but the pesto concoctions in the gourmet section appeal, too. Carrying her basket laden with greens, she makes for the egg room where, during the rest of the week, Malcolm’s eggs are sorted and graded. Stacks of empty egg cartons give the clue. On Saturday mornings, however, the egg room serves as the payment area and the display for Julie’s delicious homemade gourmet breads, cookies, oils, chutneys, relishes and jams, the ingredients all clearly labelled.
Since many of her customers are diet conscious, they appreciate her labels detailing the ingredients of each product. Black Bean, Tomato and Onion Loaf says one label. The bread contains multigrain and white flours, salt, yeast, water, olive oil, black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, cojita cheese and garlic. Fully Loaded Brownies says another, listing ingredients far healthier than those in a mix. One customer reaches for multigrain bread and apple cake. “My favourites” she says.
Clearly, Julie and her husband have a wonderful partnership. He plants crops and raises chickens; she chops, prepares and cooks. “If we can’t sell all the vegetables, I can use them in my sauces or dips or soups. And I use fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs whenever possible.”
Behind her serving table are two coolers. “Do you have any dips?” one customer asks. Julie opens a cooler. “I have black bean dip,” she answers, smiling. There are other dips and sauces, too: aja verde with fresh cilantro and jalapeno peppers, chimichurri sauce with fresh Bermuda parsley and lemon hummus. Homemade soups are also available; this particular Saturday’s offerings included broccoli, pumpkin, cheddar, cauliflower and split green pea.
For people who want to entertain, the market is ideal. Thanks to Julie, they can serve homemade breads, soups, dips and sauces with the least amount of effort. They can find Windybank Farm Market on Facebook to check out what’s on offer for the following Saturday. Julie Mayor, a regular customer for the last year or so, sums it up. “I love it here,” she says. “I feel like I’m in a different country.”