A community farmers market is about connections, and a fun thing about a new community market is connecting with new farmers.
This season, the Fulton Farmers Market kicks off a slate of growers that haven’t sold at Kingfield. Their farms have unfamiliar names that hint at a good tale — Mary Dirty Face Farm, The Weed Patch, Waxwing.
But the poster child for Fulton’s inaugural season might be Uproot Farm, because the farmer, 31-year-old Sarah Woutat, is also in her first season.
Although her family is from here, she uprooted herself from a New York City life, where she did the Brooklyn research for Green Guide New York. “I was looking to move out of New York, but not too far, so I did what I always do — figure out how to learn something without going back to school. I figured if I didn’t love farming, it would be a great experience.”
After two years apprenticing on a Connecticut farm, it was clear she loved it enough. After a year working on for a Sandstone, Minnesota farmer, she bought 18 acres between Princeton and Cambridge from the person across the street.
“My neighbor had farmed it until ’93, then rented it. We played phone tag for a week, I did the soil surveys, and then I made an offer,” she says, with a friend holding the contract for deed.
Like several farmers market farmers, Woutat is engaged in what we might call heirloom practices. This year, she’ll fill her Fulton market stall from just three of her 13 acres; she is planting nitrogen-fixing legumes on the rest to improve what has been conventionally farmed soil. Though she’ll use organic practices right away — including a native prairie grass border to provide a biodiverse buffer with conventional neighbors — the farm can’t be certified organic until 2014.
But Woutat is taking the long view, with eventual plans to always keep half the land in cover crops, to reduce erosion and enhance fertility. Still, if all goes well, she’ll send 40 types of veggies to the market this year — from the early-season lettuces, radishes and arugulas to green beans, cucumbers, broccoli and tomatoes of the high season, to fall’s savory root veggies.
Like many farmers without greenhouses or hoop houses, Woutat predicts a late arrival for veggies this year, perhaps the third week of June. (We’ll have some greenhouse vendors at the market to counteract winter’s late exit, but we are also slaves to the growing season, so meat, cheese, eggs prepared foods and crafts will dominate early on.)
Aside from the CSA shares she sells directly to individuals, Fulton will be Woutat’s only market, a place she calls “hugely important — the only place I have to put my produce on display. The goal is for the produce to sell itself, but it’s my point of contact with people. It’s customer service, but it’s also educational, to let folks know how what they’re buying is grown.”