40 varieties of local tomatoes?
The rain poured down on us throughout my son Little Brother's entire soccer game at Northside Elementary School. Adults huddled under umbrellas, kids wore raincoats under their jerseys, and even the boys on the sidelines hid from the pouring rain under a makeshift tent.
I worried that the second Homegrown Festival would be rained out, as it had been the infamous first year, at Community High School. However, once the soccer game ended, so did the rain. Surprised, Little Brother, his sisters, and I headed down to the Farmers Market with renewed spirits.
I went expecting apples, and maybe some Michigan cherries. But with cornstalks strapped to all the posts, piles of strategically placed hay bales, and twinkling Christmas lights overhead as the day darkened, this was not at all just another market. With a local band at one end and a jam session at the other, the Homegrown Festival had a beat and a rhythm all its own.
Six-year-old Little Brother was entranced by a Tin Man marionette made completely of reused materials at Recycle Ann Arbor. He beat the drums with all the children at Drummunity. He begged for a turn to spin the spinning composter.
Locally made wine from Cherry Creek Vineyard and Winery as well as locally roasted coffee from Mighty Good Coffee attested to the grown-up nature of this event, while the "Keep Ann Arbor Funky" folks and the Free Speech Coffee definitely kept the fair, well, funky. Ann Arbor regulars Produce Station and People's Food Co-op did not disappoint with their selection of beautiful locally grown fruits and vegetables. Zingerman's showcased its Westwind bread--Michigan-grown wheat, Michigan-milled flour, baked at Zingerman's Bakehouse--on a sandwich menu that featured all local ingredients, including Zingerman's Creamery cheese.
Intriguing demonstrations included "You can kraut," "Farm your yard," "Mad knife skillz," and "Wild food and tamed greens."
Even the nonprofits were local--Food Gatherers sat with a beautiful bouquet of beets. Leslie Science and Nature Center challenged children to match the tricky tracks
to the wily animals that live among us. The Huron River Watershed Council offered "homegrown" drinking water from the Huron River.
My daughters loved going from booth to booth, creating the ultimate gourmet local sampler for our dinner, while also foraging for "tries," until ten-year-old Niu Niu finally met her match at the table offering samples of forty different varieties of locally grown tomatoes. Niu Niu does not eat tomatoes. Her hunter-gatherer impulse came to an abrupt halt, and it was time to go home.
This year's Homegrown Festival is held on September 10.
[Originally published in September, 2011.]