|A familiar sight in Casey County, Kentucky!|
At Lavern's I found some local romaine lettuce and some affordable mushrooms (not local). There, while examining the last of their recent shipment of peaches (I got some luscious Georgia peaches there a few days back), I met a friendly older couple from Marion County who said they shop at the Mennonite markets all the time. [And they, like us, like to try them all out for various offerings.]
'Oh you don't want those peaches,' they said, 'You need to go up to the market on the hill where they are dead ripe.'
Never having heard that expression before, I asked if that was a bad thing. 'Oh no, they make the best jam, if that's what you want.'
Well, that's what I wanted: to make peach jam. I thanked them and headed to Hillside Greenhouse and Produce next where I saw the couple again, only this time lugging out a big box of Georgia peaches. [NOTE: they also have local blueberries now! Get them while they are here.]
'I hope you left some for me,' I joked. 'What are you planning to make with them?'
'Peach butter,' they smiled while echoing the lovely phrase of 'peach' and 'butter' paired in unison. I thought that sounded like a plan, too, when jam was done. As well as cobbler and fruit salad and more sangria or just eating them out of the box. Oh, so many things. The great thing about our local fresh produce, whether local or from a nearby state in season, is that you can practically live on it for half the year. Peach season is long here because, in August, several area produce markets sell a variety of peaches from Pennsylvania (that we find are well-suited to canning). As the local growing season hasn't even begun to hit full stride here in Casey County, there are still many months ahead to enjoy everything including squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, corn and melons! And because of the advanced growing season after a warm winter and spring, everything is ready earlier this year.
|Local 'maters are in! Some greenhouse, some field grown, but 100% local.|
I realized something else. Every time I am 'down in the valley' as we say, referring to where many of the Mennonite farms and businesses are located along South Fork Creek, I see cars from so many Kentucky counties: Marion, Boyle, Fayette, Pulaski, Russell, Adair and yes, even Casey. There are Ohio cars. Indiana cars. Cars from Tennessee. Cars that are from most any where but here. Next time you go inside Sunny Valley Country Store, make sure to check out the large map with push pins from all over the country marking where visitors live.
Casey County's produce and other Old Order Mennonite offerings have long been a kind of 'destination tourism' and it is encouraging to see that continuing, despite the economy and the rising price of gas. Saturdays are generally the busiest day of the week but on any given day you are apt to see day-trippers and tourists from further afield. Paul Hoover said that the Casey County Produce Auction has also seen an increase in visitors and buyers this year.
|Hillside Produce (on hill in background) set up a special fruit stand |
for the Casey County Bank ATM open house on Saturday.
A while back the Casey County Bank put in an ATM machine down in the valley. At first it seemed incongruous, like a pop machine might seem, placed as it was on the porch of the Old Order Mennonite-operated Sunny Valley Country Store. But it has proven to be quite handy, especially for those day-tripping tourists that local businesses like to see, and for the Mennonite businesses who need to make deposits (and it saves them from driving their horses and buggies into town to do their banking). It is important to say that this bank has been locally owned and operated since its beginnings (despite various economic crashes, slumps and disasters)––and is a true 'Main Street' bank in every sense of the word. It has never been swallowed up by larger banks and how rare and amazing is that in today's corporate world? They certainly have our business and admiration.
Yesterday the bank hosted an open house there to encourage people to come and learn about the new state-of-the-art ATM (according to bank president Mark Wolford, it is the first ATM of its kind in Kentucky and is capable of all sorts of transactions). While I'm not certain, I suspect one reason the bank wanted to host the open house was to also educate the Old Order Mennonites in how to use an ATM. This culture, while well-preserved and protected, now flirts with modernity, too.
|Paul Hoover cuts into a melon to share with his son, Keith.|
By the way, those are local blueberries: get them while available!
South Fork Creek Road now has another offering and the only place to catch a bite to eat along the way: The Wagon Trail, located just east of the Casey County Produce Auction, now serving hamburgers, pulled BBQ sandwiches, flame-broiled pork burgers, shakes, sundaes, homemade pie, cold cut sandwiches and other tasty things to eat or drink. Stop by while you're out-and-about and visit with the Sizemore family who are running it adjacent to their home. [Or Friend them on Facebook by clicking on the above link.]
Hours of operation [all are located on South Fork Creek]:
Casey County Bank ATM: 24/7!
Hillside Produce & Greenhouse: Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm
Lavern's Country Store: Monday-Saturday, 9am-7pm
The Wagon Trail: Monday-Saturday, 11am-7pm