Beth's Market And Other Summer Pleasures
Nestled in the Warren hills, on picturesque Western Road a few miles off Route 90, is Beth’s Farm Market, a farming success story in the best way. I remember stumbling upon it 20 years ago while traveling the back roads from Lincolnville to Camden to avoid the summer lockout along the Route 1 entrance into town. I made a few wrong turns and found myself in front of Beth’s—then a farm stand no bigger than a lean-to.
I’ve been going there ever since and each time feels like I’ve returned to a special hideaway.
It’s now housed in a huge seasonal barn that opens in May and lasts through most of December, providing all the ingredients for holiday cooking.
In the early days of the market, the mania for organic foods or pasture-raised animals wasn’t so momentous; and the elitism of the locovore mindset was still a decade away. What we all wanted was produce and food stuffs grown in the old fashion way—sprayed with tender loving care more than anything else.
That’s what Beth’s farm produce and house-made products are all about. From all her pies, jams, relishes, breads, and biscuits, to a staggering, perfect looking array of summer fruits and vegetables, her farm store is bounty personified. What’s intriguing about her operation is that her farming techniques, including using hoop houses and covering her crops, allow her to offer seasonal fruits and vegetables before most other farmers.
The arrival of strawberries to market is a harbinger of summer. And wouldn’t you know some of the first berries of the season came from Beth’s. I happened to be riding through the Mid Coast during the second week of June and saw Beth’s sign on the road announcing “berries.” I went there immediately as though drawn to a watering hole in the desert and picked up several quarts of her perfectly ripe, sweet, and delicious strawberries,
Strawberries are expensive this year, at least in Portlandmwhere they sell for $7 per quart. And unsprayed organic berries are fetching $8. At Beth’s and other markets outside Portland they’re under $5.
Strawberries have a short season, but growers like Beth raise the ever-bearing variety that can yield good berries into September. When you go to her market at the end of summer or early fall, there’s still a wide variety of berries in addition to Beth’s unusual array of apple varieties, sweet corn, and tomatoes.
Besides Beth’s, the other farm stores I visited this week include Spear’s farm store off Route 1 in Waldoboro, who has new crop potatoes, shelling peas, strawberries, and their own chickens and beef raised on their farm. At Fairwinds Farm in Topsham, their ultra-sweet berries are grown at their fields off Brown Point Road along the Kennebec in Bowdoinham, where you pick your own.
For the ultimate strawberry gluttony, top the berries with high quality raw heavy cream that’s available at many farmer’s markets. Some of the best providers include Beth’s market whose cream (ultrapasteurized but great tasting) is from a local farm, and Balfour Farms, and Divinity Farm’s Palmer Hill cream, both of which are for sale at the Crystal Springs Saturday farmer’s market.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinion. If you'd like to share yours, email him at email@example.com.