By Mickey Howley
Coulter Fussell covered for me the last four weeks by writing this column while I was out of town and overseas. She did a great job, so much so the Herald is giving her space to continue. I learned the hard way to listen to Coulter. She’d tell me something and I would disagree and then she’d be proven right. Every single time. Now I just text her and ask her what is the best way to do stuff. Saves me wear and tear and embarrassment. So read what she’ll write and don’t argue.
I’ll tell ya how cold it was in Water Valley last week—the week before I was on a snow covered mountaintop in Germany at dawn just after a cold front pushed through and it was 20 degrees warmer than Water Valley. Hopefully that crazy single digit pipe-busting chill does not come back.
While in Germany I did a bit of walking around small towns, towns I’ve known for almost 30 years. Something that I have consistently visited and is on the increase there—as well as here—are downtown farmers markets. There they go year round. Right in the middle of the town or surrounding the central church. And it is not all fruits and vegetables, there are flowers, breads, meat products, even “wurst” stands where you can get a hot sausage in a bun. Everything is local.
The slow steady change is this; towns that might have had market day once a week now have downtown markets twice a week. Larger towns that had markets twice a week now have it every workday. And the sizes of the markets have doubled also. And outside of towns, roadside produce stands have gone from seasonal huts to year round establishments. It is all part of the local food movement.
There has been a big increase in markets around here in the last decade. Ten years ago there was only one farmers market in Oxford, now there are two. Add the one in Water Valley and now Bruce and Calhoun City. And new on the scene are CSAs like the near Oxford, Yokna Bottom Farm. CSA is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture.
And now there is a CSA in Water Valley, Mudline Farms. Owned and operated by WV resident Melissa Ondrovcik – she and her husband John live on Dupuy Street and own the Swear-engen house – the farm is right outside of town, as the name suggests, off the old Mudline Road.
Last fall I was part of the first season of subscribers. You pay money up front and then get a basket of veggies for a set number of weeks. It was all gorgeous produce, just lovely—super fresh and about as local as you can get.
The curious thing about all this increase in markets and road stands and CSAs is that neither in Germany nor here does it hurt traditional brick and mortar stores, especially grocery stores. On the contrary, the closer to the market, the more customer traffic and the busier the stores are. There really has developed a symbiotic relationship.
Terry Rockette – dancer, performing poet, and WV art council member extraordinaire – is opening a creative economy business this week. The Vineyard is the name, and unlike Mudline, The Vineyard is not growing any plants. The Vineyard is a performance arts studio – acting, dance, exercise – and geared towards adults, with some youth classes, also. Both The Vineyard and Mudline have advertisements in this paper and both are creative economy businesses bringing lots of zing to the Valley.