Neighborhood goats and chickens

It’s easy nowadays to find farmers markets; more and more towns have them each year. The Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA keeps a comprehensive list of all U.S. farmers markets as well as some facts and statistics. As of the 2010 growing season, there were over 6,000 farmers markets in the U.S., a gain of more than 4,000 from 15 years ago. However, farmers markets are just one way to find local produce. The other way happens partly by chance and partly by making the effort to get to know your neighbors.

The tiny town of Mont Vernon, NH used to have more cows than people. Today it doesn’t, but it’s not because there’s more people; there’s just barely any cows left. One of the jokes in high school was, “Mont Vernon used to have a general store, but they sold the gallon of milk.” Sadly, the general store did close (contrary to the joke, it was for not being able to sell the milk), but there is still a library because people keep managing to return the one book. 🙂 And so such a small town cannot sustain a farmers market of its own, particularly not with all four of the abutting towns hosting their own. And yet we don’t have to leave the borders of the town to pick up a dozen eggs or 8 ounces of fresh chevre.

The “egg lady” only sells from her house, though she’ll also deliver if she’s going out anyhow. This chickens spend most of their time scratching around a dusty pen that surrounds the hen-house. The hen-house is a former camper, it’s insides disgorged and fitted with roosting boxes (see picture below). In the afternoons, the chickens are let out of their pen and allowed to run around the property and forage for themselves among the blueberry orchard or in the weeds that frame the many sheds and garages on the property. The egg lady is also the blueberry lady; in fact, it’s what’s advertised and kept in a cooler under an umbrella on a patio table at the foot of her driveway. About the eggs, you just have to know, or know someone who knows.

The “goat guy” also sells only from his home, and he is another one who you just have to know, or know someone who knows that he sells goat milk in 32-ounce glass mason jars and fresh chevre. He tends to his goats from 4 to 7 every morning and from 4:30 to 7:30 every evening, during milking season anyway. In between that time, he works at the local Blue Seal Feeds & Needs store, from where he buys the feed for his goats. He has about a dozen Lamancha does and one big billy-goat kept separate so as not to produce off-flavor milk. Once you know about his operation, you’re welcome to drop by any time to pet the goats and buy some chevre or milk, so long as you leave a check in the envelope next to the cheese fridge (he asks for no cash, lest some “disappears”).

Combine the eggs and cheese and you have a creamy and slightly tangy breakfast straight from your neighborhood! See Goat Cheese Scramble.

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