Category Archives: Events

Market Thoughts – by Jenni Logan

I’ve always enjoyed visiting farmer’s markets in whatever cities I have lived in… I’ve visited some wonderful markets in Cincinnati, Chicago, Boston and most recently Cambridge and Somerville, MA. I would wander through these markets, and see if anything exciting would jump out at me. Every time it was a different experience. Sometimes I would get excited about some leafy greens, or a delicious cheese or bread I tried, or some fresh stuffed grape leaves. I have some memories from various markets that will stay with me forever… for instance, the first time I was introduced to Kohlrabi at the Winter market at the Armory in Somerville, or the incredible array of tomatoes that I soon learned all of the names of (yellow pear, brandywine, green zebra) at the end of the summer at the Friday afternoon market next to the Charles Hotel in Cambridge.

As part of the apprentice program at Cricket Creek, we are assigned to work different farmer’s markets throughout the summer and fall. I am responsible for selling cheese and other items at the Lenox Market on Friday afternoons at Shakespeare and Company and at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough on Saturday mornings.  I had never worked at a farmer’s market until this summer when I came to Cricket Creek. Sometimes markets are really busy and one barely has time to catch their breath between cutting samples, explaining our various types of cheese and helping people with their purchases (adding the total, taking cash and making change).  Sometimes though, markets are really slow and one has time to take in the scenery and reflect on things.

Today there was a rainstorm in Lanesborough and as soon as the first drop hit, all of the customers scattered to their cars and left to go on with their days. This left me some time to reflect on the changing seasons. Everyone knows that farmer’s markets sell the most seasonal products, but I had never really thought about how incredibly apparent it is when you are working at a market and witnessing firsthand the seasonal changes solely through fruits and vegetables. In the beginning of the season, everyone is selling leafy salad greens.  Then all of the sudden everyone has summer squash and zucchini. One week there is no corn and then the next week, there are four vendors selling many different types. The fruit is the same… for a few weeks there are strawberries everywhere and then all of the sudden there are none. Raspberries came and before I knew it, they were gone. Watermelons and Cantaloupe were being sampled and tasted so sweet two weeks ago and now there are only a few left.

The change of the season really hit me yesterday though when I was looking at all of the goodies I had purchased at the Lenox market and I realized that I had collected a bounty of apple goodness including 3 different types of apples from Samascott Orchard, a fresh baked apple pie from Klara’s Gourmet Cookies and a bottle of semi-dry hard apple cider from Carr’s Ciderhouse.  Fall is my favorite season, so this all made me really happy and excited. I am looking forward to the changing flavors and landscapes of my markets as items start appearing such as fall squashes, pumpkins and gourds and while I will miss the bright yellows, reds and greens of summer, I’m ready for the deep and beautiful golds, oranges and burgundy of fall.

 

how to promote a small farm?

part of my job here is marketing and I am pretty much constantly thinking about advertising priorities.  what makes sense to invest in?  should we print more materials?  build more signs?  take out more ads?  pay for brochure distribution?  it is hard to make these decisions, and moreover it is hard to evaluate the efficacy of one route versus another.  since our small farm store is not staffed with a cashier, we can’t ask every customer where they heard about us.  this summer I posted a sign in the farm store asking customers to check off how they heard of Cricket Creek.  I included 8 boxes, “Word of Mouth”, “Vacation Village”, “The Advocate”, “Berkshire Visitors Bureau”, “Local Restaurant”, “Farmers Market”, “Sign on Rt 43”.  The other options listed on the graph below were written in by customers in the “other” section.

so – it looks like Word of Mouth is the best draw for customers to the store.  good thing that’s free!  Vacation Village is a resort in Hancock, MA that sends many guests our way.  we are very grateful to them!  the other most popular draws were the local farmers markets, our sign on Rt. 4 and two local publications – The Advocate, and Edible Berkshires.

this fall I will do a repeat and see how the results compare.  only 135 people commented on it this time around, so hopefully we will see more customers respond next time.  thanks for the info everyone and stay tuned for more data…

rendering night parts un & deux

Last Wednesday night Matthew led a fat rendering party to clear out some freezer space.  Rendering the fat makes it shelf stable at room temperature (such as ghee and other natural fats), so we can fill the freezer with more pork and beef.  Since these animal fats are saturated, the oils are stable and MUCH less likely to go rancid or form trans fats.  You can tell how saturated an oil is by looking at what temperature it melts.  The slower it is to melt (more solid at room temperature), the more saturated and stable it is.

For the first half of rendering night, we all sat outside and ate, while the fat was heating up inside.  Well Matthew did us all the pleasure of deep-frying Cricket Creek hot dogs in some boiling Cricket Creek Farm tallow (beef fat).   We called this beef on beef.  They were quite tasty.  Paul (the Tobasi man), did us the pleasure of bringing a blender into the creamery and concocting  fabulous spreadable tobasi from some weak rinded cheeses.  So, tobasi-mash on hot dogs and vegetables ensued…

(Nicole also brought some perfectly ripe cantaloupe!)

part deux… after much consumption, we followed our noses to the fat being rendered.  Our goal in the rendering process is to separate the fat from any tissue, muscle, or anything else that we don’t want to save.  This is what the process looks like – notice the different colors in the jars , a reflection of the different fats and cooking temperatures.  Cooking them for so long at high heat is FINE, since unlike soybean oil, canola, corn, or other unstable oils (which would form free radicals), these natural fats are stable even at high temperatures.

What will we do with all this fat?  Much of the tallow will likely be used for making soap, and perhaps also candles.  The rest of the tallow and lard will be used for sauteing vegetables, making the perfect pie-crust, frying a morning egg,  and other feats of delicious cooking.  We try to consume as much as we can from the food we produce here on the farm.  The natural fats from grass-fed animals keep us full, energized, and positive all day long.  These are the fats that humans evolved on.  We try to stay away from processed vegetable fats (often full of free radicals and rancid, almost always bleached and perfumed, and dangerously low in omega-6s) that are associated with modern degenerative diseases.

We often have tallow, leaf lard, and back fat for sale in the Cricket Creek Farm store.  With winter all these summer vegetables to saute and winter soups on the way, contact us if you would like to purchase some.

faces of Cricket Creek

Hi all – Suzy here.  I wanted to take this blogging opportunity to share the various (gorgeous) faces of the farm.  I am grateful to work with some pretty spectacular people here at Cricket Creek.  Every day I feel lucky that I am surrounded by creative, hard-working, driven, and FUN folks.  What great people to spend my time with, to learn from and with.  Here’s a bit about each one of them.  If you stop by the farm, please say hi to them – I promise they are nice and will say “hi” back!

Mike – handy, adaptable, practical, kind, resourceful. pumps up flat tires in the parking lot without being asked, and doesn’t expect acknowledgement – he’s just that giving.  likes to problem solve.  is a paint expert, and what he doesn’t know, he definitely will find out.  drives a 25 year old station wagon with feathers, bark, and origami cranes on the dashboard.  before farming, he worked as a design drafter where he worked on steam turbine detail drawings.  last name is fox.

Casey – light-hearted, poised, imaginative, dynamic, positive.  has a boxer named Cudi who loves her dearly and yearns for her while she works.  she is from oklahoma and has lived in all sorts of states that I know little about.  has worked as a baker and concentrated on naturally leavened breads and specialty pastries.  carries a comfortable, upbeat demeanor with her.  knows the lyrics to any song that just happens to be playing.  has a readiness to learn and a lovely ease about her.

Paul – spirited, bold, devoted, earnest, giddy. studied art, and then realized his true love of cheese.  is a master cheese taster and describer.  dives in and takes initiative.  values education and taking on complex issues.  bonds with the tobasi late into the evening through wild molds, telepathy, and a roaring boom box.  sports a beard-net in the creamery.  it is amazing to dance with him – especially if there is a hula hoop involved.  has been described as part hobbit.  he knows more than he lets on.

Jamie – dedicated, ambitious, consistent, meticulous, attentive. she is famous ’round these parts – famous, and very well respected.  known for her lip-smacking baked goods and her kind eyes.  she can tell chickens apart with more accuracy than anyone I know.  has a vast apron collection.  likes to plan ahead.  she gives every question or issue her full consideration.  is the loving caregiver of a mule, a horse, a large dog, and a royal flock of fowl, including some very sexy roosters.

Nicole –  conscientious, driven, earnest, methodical, passionate.  spent some formative years in the pacific northwest, where she worked with the whole gamut of livestock.  was an exceptional mother to some weak little piglets here.  has an impressive commitment to health and wellness.  smiles very fully when discussing good food.  has a critical mind and a notable idealism.  has an openness to the world – absorbing theories, histories, practices.  you can tell she is on a quest – in a beautiful way. 

 

Matthew – deliberate, steady, industrious, sharp, humble.  has an amazing laugh – hearty and gentle.  inspires me to work harder.  has a strong ethical conscience.  doesn’t let on his critical artistic judgement.  likes to hang out with the dairy cows at night, and sleep outside when it’s cool.  primary form of communication with the dairy cows is whistling, which they respond to exceptionally well.  hates clichés and historical inaccuracies.  has an extensive knowledge of political, agricultural, and geographical history – but never flaunts.  when he isn’t feeding, moving, or milking animals, he is likely oiling his leather boots, cooking up something delectable, sharpening knives, reading, or drinking his daily gallon of milk.  

Jenni – thorough, dependable, cultured, diligent, mature.  worked in the event planning industry for a decade before diving into cheese.  seems to have lots of connections to important people.  finds creative solutions to even the smallest issues.  goes to see all the stars at tanglewood, where she recently overcame her fear of E.T. she exudes mental clarity, sincerity, and sophistication.  doesn’t judge, is very accepting.  she has an admirable focus while working, and sees tasks through to completion.  has a calming presence.
 
Topher – perceptive, patient, eloquent, thoughtful, charismatic.  will go out of his way for you.  looks you in the eyes.  incredibly analytical.  has a special affinity for spreadsheets, meaningful calculations, and googledocs.  his playfulness is infectious and subtle humor brings a lightness to the farm.  empowers others.  is a phenomenal listener – won’t ever cut you off.  apparently has a record-breaking collection of costumes, but doesn’t wear them as much as he probably should.  you can tell his whereabouts by his dented orange water bottle.

Jude – worldly, maternal, sophisticated, sociable, generous.  is unbelievably giving.
has lived on multiple continents, and has so many stories to tell – all of which she tells with affection and immense inner light.  she truly comes alive to music.  if you start singin’, you can count on her to sing along.  probably never imagined her life would take this turn, and she would become the proud owner of a place as successful, dynamic, and important as Cricket Creek Farm.  Thank you Jude!

Faces at the Vermont Cheese Makers Festival

One of the best parts of the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival is watching the faces of the people who try our cheese.  And of course, hearing them talk about cheese.  If I had a polaroid camera, I would have tried to snap a shot of each unsuspecting person as they tried a sample.  I say unsuspecting because it is true – the looks on these faces indicated that they did not know what was coming.

There is the disbelief face.  This is the face of the person who doesn’t trust their taste buds.  They go back for another piece to make sure what they are experiencing is real.  Then they say, “did you make this cheese”.  “You’re too young to make this cheese.”  They ask, “This is really good….?”  We reply, “yes it’s really good…”

There is the contemplative face.  Now, I need to think about that cheese for a while.  I will just stare at it in silence while I contemplate it.  No, no, don’t try talking to me.  I need to focus.  Focus on this cheese – figure it out.

There is the O-face.   Yes, by O-face, I mean Orgasm-face.  Their eyes get wide.  Pupils dilate.  Head tilts slightly backward.  Eyes roll back slightly.  Cheeks blush.  “Oh – oh my god.”  “Wow….wow…this….this is amazing.”  Yes, I know.

There is the ravenous face.  Okay, that was good, now I need another piece.  And another.  And another.  Can’t stop.  Mmmmm.

There is the strange face.  This person is a stranger in a strange land.  They look at the cheese.  Hmmm….never had anything like that before.  Very unique….

Unfortunately, there was no polaroid camera, but you can see some photos of our booth at the festival, and some silly images of us.  For more photos, check out our facebook page.

Holiday Farmers Markets!

Last weekend were the Berkshire Grown Holiday Farmers Markets in Great Barrington and Williamstown.  They were both a huge success.  It was fun to see all our fellow Berkshire farmers and share our cheese, baked goods, and meat with so many people.  We will be attending the Berkshire Grown Holiday Markets in December as well – so be sure to come out and see us and stock up for Christmas feasting and gifts!  We will also be at the Holiday Markets in New Lebanon, NY on Tues Nov 22nd and Fri Dec 9 (both 4-8pm).  See you at the market!

Little Red School House Apple Fest!

We spent the day today at the LIttle Red School House Apple Fest in South Williamstown. The event, fundraiser for the school is a great local event geared toward young children – lots of activities, including face painting , pumpkin decoration, pony rides and more.

We brought two calves – Rosalyn, a two week old Brown Swiss, and Ingrid a one month old Jersey, who were a big hit!

They were very well behaved, and enjoyed the attention, though they weren’t sure about the car ride down (yes, they rode in the back of the Pontiac Vibe for the one mile ride down the hill).

Ingrid and a friend