Thursday, June 28, 2012

Two Left Hands

                This entry dates back a few months, but, at the same time, considering the overall “issue”, it has been a theme that has surrounded me throughout my existence. The title is “Two Left Hands”, and while I do not have two left hands, the cliché does not fit either, that is, inferring that my right hand is as useless as my left hand. That being said, and perhaps I should have preempted it, I am right-handed, at least that was how I was taught to be at such a young age that I no longer have a choice as to which hand is preferred for the majority of usage…
                Egad… but what a jumble I have just written!
                Okay, first off, there is a cliché about a person having “two left hands”, and that cliché implies that the person is clumsy, as in, both of the person’s hands are of the least used sort, the one not normally used. Secondly, this assumes that the person in question is not naturally left-handed. (Otherwise, we are discussing some incredible prodigy of incredible talent… which should somehow be tied into sports…)
                No, this entry is about something entirely different than the issue of whether one is right-handed or left-handed, although, indeed, that does affect the outcome. But enough dilly-dallying!
                When I was VERY young, as in, seven years old, a man by the name of James Earl Carter, Jr. was sworn in as the 39th president of this here United States of America. Again, I was very young at the time, that is, so young that any concept of what living actually entails would not arrive for at least another ten years, but then again, what does living actually entail? (I cannot resist… I digress!)
                As anyone else, I have many memories of my youth, but they are not straightforward lines of event after event. As the issue at present revolves around my seventh year of life, there are mere points that I remember that have remained since my early youth. It is almost like a slide show…
                I remember vividly Jimmy Carter winning the election of 1976, and I was VERY happy about that, despite the fact that all of my family was against the situation. This is not a political entry, by any means. I was a young kid who intuited the nature of the new president that seemed so likeable to me. All of the preceding incidents that led up to his election were unknown to me… the Viet Nam war, Watergate, the oil embargo in the Middle East… I just liked the man, again, intuitively.
                One of the clear memories I have from that time period was “Buy American”. As a naïve child, I thought that was quite logical, again having no idea of any of the depth of a global economy, etc.. Of course, buy American made products! A few of my extended family worked in factories, so by all means, let’s keep them employed! For those who were not around or cognizant at that time, the advertising for “Buy American” was intense, so much the case, that a child of seven, that is, me, thought that that theme was as logical and established as apple pies and baseball, so to speak.
                Apparently, it was not. All the fanfare I grew up hearing disappeared rather quickly, as did Jimmy Carter’s presidency, and as my life focus was on… trivialities of any given particular moment, twenty years passed, then ten more. Now, as a person who has survived forty years on this planet, and in this same country, I might add, the situation is quite different.
                It seems, actually historical data dictates, that all the while I was growing up thinking that American jobs were being saved by our money purchasing power, the great majority of those jobs landed in third world countries where the labor force is cheap! While I grew up under the rally call to “Buy American”, which I have tried to do throughout my life, the reality of the situation was that the great majority of those “American” jobs were shipped overseas, and great land masses as well, to areas where the cost of the labor force was next to nothing in comparison to, say, unionized labor in the good ol’ USA. Again, I admit, I was naïve at the time, and as I aged, I noticed the “Made in Japan” labels change  to “Made in Taiwan”. Eventually those countries passed the cheap labor torch as well…
                Now there is the “MiC” issue… Made in China.
                It can be quite amazing how quickly time passes whilst one is embroiled in the day to day task of surviving in a capitalistically aligned global society of humans. As I think back on the “Made in the USA” call in the mid-seventies, and now witness “Made in China” on almost every item for sale in any type of store… ANYWHERE!... What the… happened?!!! And where did the time go?!!! A mere twenty-five years?!!!
                But enough of that. “MIC”. “Made in China”. That is the “issue” of this entry. Apparently, at some point in our past, products made in China were of considerable value, such as… China! Most families I knew in my youth had “China”, that is, porcelain plates, supposedly “hand crafted” in China, which were mostly for show, because they were so expensive using them for actual dining purposes was absurd. To add another “apparently”, quality seems to have fallen off the Chinese plan for production, now that it has become the production machine that it has.
                A theme I have always lived by is “you get what you pay for”. If you want quality, you need to pay more. In my simplistic approach to “things”, I much rather pay extra money for something that will last, than have to pay multiple times for something of inferior quality that constantly breaks. And that is why I have tried to “buy American”.
                Then, I became a farmer. To further qualify that, then I became a certified organic farmer, not that that really makes a difference. Anyway, as a produce farmer, there are always “items” to be purchased in order to make one’s operation, well, operate. Since I have been farming over the last decade or so, most of the purchases come from large retail stores… by default. Screws, nails, nuts, bolts, electrical supply, plumbing, etc., all reside conveniently on the shelves of the large retail stores. I have looked into purchasing supplies from other venues over the internet, however, since the price of fuel has quadrupled over the past twelve years, shipping costs relegate most quality items into the “not possible” category.
                So, as the years have passed, and I have worked with a myriad of items purchased from the large retail stores, I have been constantly frustrated as those items either break down, implode, or are utterly worthless. And each time I experience one of the let downs, I search for the lettering that I am certain is there… Made in China. Oh how frustrating it is to think how the “buy American” theme was merely a façade! F@#$ing capitalism!
                To ramble on no longer, the point of this entry revolves around a product I purchased at one of the large retail stores. It was a pair of gloves. Before me lie the task of potting up hundreds of plants , and the issue is the perlite in the grow mix. Perlite is “exploded” volcanic rock, a natural ingredient in soil mix the helps to “aerate” the mixture so the roots of the young plants have room to grow. Perlite just happens to be quite abrasive, as in, when working with it with your hands, even quite toughened farm hands like my own, it tends to slice those hands up over the hours working with it. Ergo, I bought a pair of gloves made of some type of rubber material that was water proof, since the soil mix would be saturated.
                A day was planned to work with the potting mix and plant, etc. all day long. And on that day, I opened the stapled together pair of gloves. As I attempted to put them on my hands, I quickly realized that I was the lucky recipient of two left handed gloves. Of all things! I checked the gloves over three times just to make sure I was witnessing the situation correctly. Yep, two left-handed gloves. I checked the label. Yep, Made in China. Ugh. Instantly an image appeared in my mind of a Chinese factory worker getting a good laugh over putting two left handed gloves together in a package known to have a destination of the USA.
                So, there I was with a ton of work to do, two left-handed gloves and the store I bought them from 20 minutes away. I forced one of the left-handed gloves on my right hand and went to work anyway. The glove tore within minutes, which made it virtually non-protective.
                But I must stop this rant. It just makes me so frustrated. Why even make something so crappy in the first place? In past centuries all that was available was quality, because otherwise the craftsman would not be employed. Not is our century…noooo… if it ain’t cheap no one will buy it. That previous statement is not true, because I will buy it, and I know quite a few others who will as well! Did you hear that, large retail stores… I said… (I’ll just pretend they heard it.) SELL AMERICAN!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Mid-Winter's Nightmare

                Groundhog day. February 2.
                I have to admit that I abhor reading about Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast every year on this date, because… well… it is complete nonsense. But, allow me to elucidate.
                First off, for those unaware of whom, or better yet, what Punxsutawney Phil is, it is a groundhog; one of those nefarious creatures that relentlessly attack an organic farmer’s efforts like… humans seem to enjoy despoiling the entire planet earth! More specifically, groundhogs are rapacious gluttons of anything and everything that we rapacious humans love to devour…
                Ack! Okay, allow me to start again. Groundhogs, to put it quite succinctly, are the WORST invaders of any garden… period. But I have vociferated about that quite extensively in previous entries. For those who attempt, attempt to nurture produce in the vicinity of one of those voracious creatures, no more needs to be said, or written that is. For those who are not aware, well, the image presented by the town of Punxsutawney hefting Phil into the early February air is in no way indicative of what reality is.
                Perhaps I have lost a few of you at this point, but… my blood is… to use a cliché.. boiling at this point. Because I f&%#ing HATE groundhogs!!! Those ground burrowing creatures are the most cowardly of mammals, that spend their lives foraging off of the efforts of good natured gardeners all across this region…
                Okay… pause… take a breath… relax…
                Groundhogs… Oh how I hate those f&%#ing creatures. But I have stated that before. And, I have had countless people reciprocate that verdict, and I might add, even more vehemently than me. (Of course there are others, whom I deem quite naïve, who say those filthy creatures are beneficial because they aerate the earth… AERATE THE EARTH! What the…? Ack… back to the entry!)
                Perhaps I should resume with a description of Groundhog Day this past February 2, 2012 that is. The high temperature was 56.8 degrees Fahrenheit and the overnight low was 41.7 degrees Fahrenheit. In perspective of average seasonal temperatures, it was rather warm for deep winter. Nonetheless, Punxsutawney Phil should not be…
                I can’t continue without addressing this Punxsutawney Phil absurdity. I do feel the need to apologize to the well meaning town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where this absurd Groundhog Day is centered, but, in all seriousness, the focus is… a groundhog… A GROUNDHOG!!! A brown furred mammal with long fingers and sturdy claws perfectly adapted to dig under any type of barrier those furless two legged creatures known as humans might erect to divert the groundhog’s cowardly thieving of those aforementioned human’s plantings of healthy organic produce! Who knows better my dismay over those despicable creatures than Carl Spackler of “Caddy Shack” fame, where he devised all kinds of methods to rid the golf course of those nefarious creatures, that he termed “gophers”.  (Linguistics is not the issue here. Groundhogs are!)
                So where was I? Oh yeah, Punxsutawney Phil. What a tranquil, even celebratory sight arises over the groundhog that is lifted from his/her… actually, where exactly do those people dressed up in early twentieth century attire actually find their “Punxsutawney Phil”? I thought that this year, after having witnessed so many similar years of Punxsutawney Phil, that groundhogs are never anywhere close to being active at that time of year. (A small aside: a groundhog is “active” when it comes out of hibernation and starts to venture about looking for food and/or a new residence.)
                There is no amount of words that can relay how I HATE/DESPISE that display of Punxsutawney Phil. First off, it is a GROUNDHOG! Second is the notion that a shadow is going to relay to a groundhog to sleep for more weeks is absurd! Thirdly… well in the twelve plus years I have been farming, no year has appeared even remotely the same, translated… means… hefting a placid groundhog into the air on February 2 will reveal very little of what to expect for a growing season!
                Egads, but I get worked up about this! And this year in particular!
                After picking up the newspaper and seeing the typical Groundhog Day forecast, and it does not matter whether that forecast is six more weeks of winter or not, because as I have written above, it is all nonsense, what struck me this February 2 was that it was… February 2! Who ever actually sees an “active” groundhog on Groundhog’s Day? Honestly. It is the depth of winter. In all my years of analyzing vermin activity in the region, I have never seen a groundhog out of its hole… on Groundhog’s Day!
                Until 2012, that is. I perused the morning paper, which, of course, documented Punxsutawney Phil’s analysis of the upcoming year, which, I quickly forgot, or perhaps even ignored. Anyway, the 2012 winter was quite mild up to that point, in fact, we really did not experience a winter transitioning from 2011 to 2012 in our Mid-Maryland region. From a farmer’s perspective, we did not experience a deep frost, which is quite important for certain perennial crops, AND, we experienced an early hot period… which basically threw everything out of whack! Now six months into the season, the bug population is extremely heavy,… but groundhogs?
                On February 2, Groundhog’s Day, I was driving past my neighbor and partner’s farm on Murkle Road, and as Stone Road approached, in the middle of the asphalt road lurked… a groundhog! On February 2! What the…
                I must now approach the term “wisdom”, because that is something that I am quick to admit to be lacking in the arena of farming. Unfortunately for me, an over ten year veteran of organic farming, there is very little local “wisdom” from which to learn in the realm of “organic farming”. Nonetheless, and I will pause again here, to state it quite clearly, my point in organic farming is not to make myself a bazillion dollars… which is impossible while farming organically, but to relay the many, many, many situations I have experienced while farming to the next generations, which has been lost over the past hundred years through our Agricultural Extension Service. Eventually, the Agricultural Extension Service will get that “organic” food production is much more important than “chemical” agriculture, but we are not there yet…(At least I hope they will eventually get it.)
                So, “wisdom”? This past winter had no deep freeze. In our mid-Atlantic, mid-Maryland region, we almost always experience a deep freeze. We did not this past winter. Things, as usual, are askew. What does that mean? Well, for one, the pest population is “healthy”, and that is not good. The clearest example, there is the canker worm, which normally cannot over-winter through our deep freeze. In a “normal” year, the canker worms will not appear until August. They are already prevalent. Which leads me back to Mr. Groundhog…
                A hibernating… beast, such as a groundhog, must surely be triggered internally by the temperature, and while I vociferated earlier in this entry that Groundhog Day was too early for them to  emerge from hibernation, if a deep freeze does not occur in a region that normally does, the entire equation gets thrown off. (Not being a hibernating creature, I do not claim to comprehend how their bodies make them work.)
                Nonetheless, it was quite deflating to witness a groundhog on Groundhog’s Day. There is so much work to do, and to think that the groundhogs are already attacking your efforts… before you have even started! But there was a happy ending to this tale for me on this past Groundhog’s Day. Some may think it macabre, brutal, even callous, but for me I am a realist, and as I will stand by that statement, any judgment is unwarranted unless one attempts to grow organic produce without groundhog attacks.
                It was late evening on February 2, 2012… what time would that be? 5pm? I drove down that stretch of Murkle Road, and… to disregard my reaction… there was a dead groundhog in the middle of the road. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and to commiserate with Carl Spackler of Caddy Shack fame, albeit tweaking the concern from gophers to groundhogs… Au Revoir, Groundhog!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Food Sticking to the Roof of One's Mouth

                The farming season is well underway at this point, and, although there is still an overabundance of paper work to organize, I have decided to “take a break” for a moment and start back up with my entries to “Tales of Idyllia”… the 2012 edition. What topic seems most appropriate to analyze? Oh, there are many, far too many. Nonetheless, I have settled on one, merely because it is a relatively new “awareness”, and I was reminded of it again this very evening. The topic? The issue of “food” sticking to the roof of one’s mouth.
                This is admittedly an odd topic. However, after coming to a clearer understanding of processed “foods”, or foodstuffs, a lot of old memories have also clarified. But this story starts rather obscurely… as in neither “food” nor “roofs of mouths” initiated as any type of focus whatsoever. And as my knack for digressions never seems to wane…
                A few weeks ago, Kirk…
                Alright, if the case may be that you are unaware of whom Kirk is, his farm, along with his wife, Jen, is the farm I am partnering with who raises the cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys… that taste so incredible! Anyway…
                Kirk and I were engaged in the task of installing a fence for a horse farm. Nothing dynamic there. Once noon hit, we decided to find some grub in our somewhat rural Carroll County location. (Here I am thinking rural means no fast food restaurants. Egad how the county has become urban sprawl!) We stopped at a roadside deli of sorts and ordered sandwiches. It was a “Ma and Pa” set up where a computer was not involved in the ordering process, pen and paper sufficed.
                I feel the need to pause here. Although my farming operation, which consists of mainly produce and herbs, was first “certified organic” back in 2001, it has only been over the past few years that I have become aware of how… disgusting the factory farming style of, well, farming actually is. My intention was to avoid the use of chemicals in growing produce… which I have done… for over a decade. What I was not aware of was the crazy, and I use that term loosely, manner in which animals are “reared” in factory farming. Having met Kirk and Jen in 2010, and having witnessed how their animals are treated in comparison, it is always difficult for me to purchase a “meat” product from a random source, realizing that the animals the meat originated from most likely lived a life of hell somewhat reflective to concentration camps in our own species’ recent history. So, at this “Ma and Pa” set up, I needed to forget the reality of what cruel and extreme torture was involved in the raising of the turkey that ended up sliced on my club sandwich… But again, I have digressed greatly!
                I ordered my club sandwich on rye bread… Oh, how I love rye bread, that is, REAL rye bread, not one with high fructose corn syrup, bleached or enriched flour, etc. I love rye bread with untainted rye and wheat and caraway seeds, etc.  And this leads to the topic of this entry.
                Kirk also ordered a sandwich, which was not on the “white” bread that had been part of our normal diets growing up. To pause again, Kirk is ten years younger than I am, and while I was ten years old when high fructose corn syrup first forced its way into the food stream, Kirk, literally, grew up with it. But high fructose corn syrup is not the issue here either. Allow me to explain.
                So it was noon, or thereabouts. We pulled out of the eatery’s parking lot and started driving back to the work site… I have to pause again. We were in south Carroll County. I have not personally been in that particular area in probably a decade. I was struck by the fact, that behind all of the developments that had arisen in that short period of time, all the far off “farm” land housed horses. I searched for cows, but saw none. None, that is, until our day was done and we were almost into Westminster later that day. Wow! What just recently used to be agrarian landscape has metamorphed into a hodgepodge of developments and horse farms! Who is going to grow our produce, raise our meat animals, etc.? But I have digressed… yet again.
                So it was noon, or thereabouts. Kirk and I had to wait a while as our sandwiches were being crafted at the “Ma and Pa” deli. And as we waited, patiently, that is, all that lined the aisles of the store were such items as Tastykakes and similar products; products which when you read the ingredients, you feel as though you are reading a foreign language, or some poindexter scientist is attempting to outwit you with verbiage. (Perhaps I have digressed yet again?)
                Nonetheless, our sandwiches arrived. And they were delicious. (That is another digression, but I digress.) As we were on our way back to the job site, Kirk commented on his memory of white bread… (At last! We have reached the point of this entry!)… and, how when eating sandwiches on white bread growing up, the bread always stuck to the roof of his mouth… (pause)…  Oh how many memories arose in my mind of my distant youth at that moment! White bread! Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! That is the memory of my own youth. And always, the bread stuck to the roof of my mouth. It was annoying, but that was merely the reality of eating a sandwich… I always thought it was the peanut butter…(okay, another digression… none of us were allergic to peanuts back then… figuring out how so many peanut allergies have arisen over the last decade is not the point here… GMO peanuts, inoculation, etc.)… but it was not the peanut butter! Even if you had a ham sandwich that white bread stuck to the roof of your mouth!
                When Kirk mentioned his memory, so many thoughts arose in my mind. And, as my mind works in a scientific fashion, so many memories of my youth, that is, in regards to eating white bread leapt to the forefront of my analysis. As mentioned above, I have not been completely aware of how many non-natural ingredients have been used in processed foods. My knowledge has been that there are non-natural ingredients, and thus, I avoided them. BUT, the amount, or the percentage of non-natural ingredients is staggering for me to contemplate, now that I have learned what those strangely named ingredients are that are listed on our “fake” food’s labels.
                A couple of years back, I made a definitive decision to not eat anything with High Fructose Corn Syrup… and lost 45 pounds in a matter of months. I was amazed that losing weight by avoiding that extremely chemically processed ingredient was so simple. In my own simplistic manner of scientific analysis, the equation: non-natural = harmful, has become the cornerstone for my approach to ALL of our ailments as mammalian species on this planet.
                So, back to food sticking to the roof of one’s mouth… When the ingredients to white bread are actually read, there are quite a few lingering names for the ingredients that are not readily known… to the natural world, that is. White bread, (bleached flour white bread), which is actually a rather new entrant to the realm of… food stuffs, is by no means a “natural” product. And yet, that is what we grew up eating, thinking it was the “natural” thing to eat.
                Most recently, I have been a willing recipient to homemade bread on a regular basis. For about a half a year now, I have eaten almost no bread that consists of anything but natural ingredients, from the flour to the caraway seed, etc. And none of that bread stuck to the roof of my mouth! What the… heck… is with the white bread sticking to the roof of one’s mouth?!
                And here I will pause again, but this time in an attempt to analyze, and finalize this entry. Is it really as simple as, the highly processed food stuff called “white bread” is so foreign to the human digestive system that saliva, that initial interior liquid to break down food, simply is stifled by the complex and un-natural conglomeration of ingredients known as “white bread”? What else sticks to the roof of one’s mouth? I can think of no other, of course I do not eat junk food, per se. And here I stand in a bit of a state of torpor… Is it really that simple? That the un-natural ingredients in “food stuffs” are what is mis-shaping our digestion systems? As mentioned above, after leaving high fructose corn syrup behind, I left quite a large amount of weight behind as well. If eating highly processed “food stuffs”, such as white bread, can lead to such unnatural situations as having food stuck to the roof of one’s mouth… perhaps it is time to stop eating that unnatural… garbage! Try it! You will be amazed with the flavor of natural ingredients, as well as how your body will digest it!
                In the previous paragraph, I mentioned not having another example of food “sticking to the roof of one’s mouth”. A few weeks ago, my life partner, Stephanie and I were at a dinner with my family at a fine dining style restaurant. The dessert was served, and as usual, I abstained. Stephanie, however, did not. I cannot remember, but I think the dessert was some type of chocolate cake. Anyway, she took a bite of the cake and quickly relayed how delicious it was. Then, she said, “It’s sticking to the roof of my mouth.” She pushed the rest of the dessert away.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


                In late August of 2003, my cell phone rang while I was tending my farm’s market stand in the Taneytown Farmer’s Market. It was Jim Crebs of Tomatoes, Etc. on the other end of the cell phone connection. Jim and I have known each other for many years. We are the same age and both graduated from high school in the same year a quarter of a century ago, albeit from different schools. Anyway, Jim was calling from his stand at the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market. During the conversation, he implored me to join the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market because almost all of the farmers from previous years had retired, leaving, basically, him and Greg Thorne of Thorne Farm as the only vendors in the large Conaway parking lot in which the current market still resides. In a short span of time due to the conversation, I agreed, and decided to join the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market.
                Now to explain a little further, the Taneytown Farmer’s Market was a nightmare… for an organic vegetable farmer at least. To ignore the fact that almost no one who came to the market, that is, of the very few people who attended the market, cared about “organic” produce, the main issue of concern was the Market Rules for that particular market (along with most markets at that time). In the rules for the Taneytown market, it clearly stated that farmer’s could “buy in” up to 20% of the produce they would sell in order to supplement a lack of supply early in the market. It was an old rule, deemed wise over the years to help out fruit vendors who have little to sell until the bulk of their fruit ripens. It was a terrible rule for someone, like me, who grows crops from the spring through the fall by my own effort and energy.
                The market managers at the Taneytown market had enticed a larger market farmer into their market that year, and this gentleman used the “buy in” clause to his fullest advantage. Each week, he showed up at the market with a truckload of produce purchased at the food depot in Jessup, Maryland, which, to the customer, appeared to originate from his farm. And so, while I sat behind my tiny stand with 75 cent certified organic cucumbers for sale in early July, his display heralded corn, lopes, tomatoes (all of which would not be ripe for another month in our growing area)… and cucumbers for 25 cents. I stewed for weeks watching that dishonest display of farming… and sold virtually nothing. How was it justified that this larger farm could cheat in such a manner? Just because he had a big truck and could purchase bulk produce so cheaply? I admit that it infuriated me… but I have never been one to give up in the face of such disparity. Instead… I joined the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market.
                At that time, Jackie Coldsmith was a fellow vendor at the Taneytown Farmer’s Market. We met the year before, and since we were both strongly aligned to “organic” agriculture, we talked extensively about how to make such agriculture work in Carroll County. Once the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market option arose, we agreed on forming a partnership of sorts, and by 2004, both her farm, De La Tierra Gardens, and mine had moved to the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market.
                What struck both Jackie and I immediately was how passionate the customers at the Westminster market were. It was not at all like Taneytown where you really needed to sell your product. The Westminster crowd truly desired the produce… and were willing to pay for it! This same group of regular customers remains to this day, and we are incredibly appreciative of them! But I have digressed. Nonetheless, it was truly invigorating to meet a customer base who actually wanted you to be there. And instantly, we were hooked on the market.
                The issue, however,  for the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market in 2004, like 2003, was the lack of vendors. We drastically needed more farmers to join the market. For me, a huge BUT lingered… BUT we can’t allow such large farms that “buy in” a substantial portion of what they sell. And so we endured a slow and small market throughout the 2004 season. One particular Saturday morning, however, developed into a paramount moment for us… along with the reason for this very entry… which after all, is a eulogy of sorts…
                Over the weeks, I read the Market Rules for the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market, which read very closely to that of the Taneytown market, with the “buy in” rules etc. We needed to change our rules. Period. Our market would be for “producers only”. What we sell, we produce. Period. We discussed this amongst ourselves for weeks, and on one Saturday, when a tropical storm visited the market dropping a deluge of rain upon our meek stands, we clamped our tents together, I pulled out the Market Rules, and the four of us agreed on how we should word the “new” rules for what would be our current “producer only” farmer’s market. Fine. We were in agreement. We only had one more bridge to scale… the city that supports us… Westminster, Maryland.
                Enter Stan Ruchlewicz, the administrator for economic development for the city of Westminster. Stan was our man to approach if anything could be done to change the rules of the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market.
                Stan, after all, is the focus of this entry, and I do not want to waste anymore space detailing all that transpired over the years. What has been detailed above seems to be sufficient to explain our, that is the farmer’s at the Downtown market’s point of arrival to “meeting” Stan.
                My memory of when we first approached Stan about changing the rules of the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market is not absolutely clear so many years removed. I do remember the situation of… so who are the board members? They have all retired. That makes the four of us: Greg, Jackie, Jim and I the farm representatives, and Stan the city representative. It was obvious back in those days almost a decade ago, that Stan had not thought all that much about our farmer’s market. Nonetheless, he worked with us, without any hesitation really. Even though at that time, we were four small farms attempting to start what we envisioned would be a clear path to the future of farming, he was willing to accept our “changes”, and those changes were implemented as so…
                Again, that was almost a decade ago. Since then, “producer only” farmer’s markets have become quite popular, and while we were by no means the first “producer only” farmer’s market, we are the first in Carroll County. Each year we would meet with Stan to discuss changes and improvements, etc. And as each year passed, it could easily be seen how Stan’s enthusiasm grew over our market. This year in particular, he was very excited about the City of Westminster allowing for the Tuesday Farmer’s Market in the Conaway parking lot. Stan may not have gotten our vision many years ago, but he helped nurture it nonetheless. Up to this date this year, he was at every market, armed with camera… and lots to chat about… that is, except for yesterday’s market.
                It has been quite a shock to learn that Stan passed away yesterday from a heart attack. No, he was not at the market yesterday, and now we know why. It is always strange to try to come to grips with the passing on of people with which you work closely. I can remember Stan quite vividly last Saturday at the market. He was so enthusiastic about what can develop.
                But, alas, Stan is going to miss it. After spending close to a decade working with us off-beat farmers, after watching and helping us grow to the respectable market that we now are… Stan is no more. I do not know what else to write. I hope that the reader will have come to understand that there is much more to a farmer’s market than merely farmers presenting their wares. It takes a lot of organizing and administration as well.
                To end, I feel quite comfortable to speak for all of the vendors at the Downtown Westminster Farmer’s Market… Adieu, Stan. Thank you for all that you have done for us. We will miss you.