Roadside farmstands are making a comeback. They have been around forever, more common in some places than in others. Growing up in New England, I saw a lot of self-serve apple stands, but they never provided anything close to one-stop shopping. Today, some of the farmstands where I live are getting pretty close.
From a farmer’s perspective, the potential benefits are immediately obvious, especially in comparison to his other available options for marketing the produce grown by his wife and her crew. It’s the shortest commute imaginable. You don’t have to pack and unpack a truck or deal with customers at the market, perhaps in the wind and rain. And if a farmer does make that trek, the stand becomes a place to unload what doesn’t sell. Farmers who sell their produce at wholesale prices to stores, restaurants, and distributors end up doing more work for less money than those who sell it for retail at the edge of their field.
My friend Josh built his first stand five years ago on the road beside his farm. That was before the virus, and even then he was pretty happy with it.
“We were early adopters,” he told me, smugly. When COVID hit, the farmstand moved from being a novelty to a lifesaver. Farmstand sales shot up 500 percent, which more than picked up the slack from declining restaurant and market sales.
“People didn’t want to go into crowded stores or farmers markets, and the open-air, self-serve nature of a farmstand was really appealing,” he said.
It all made sense. But to his pleasant surprise, farmstand sales continued to improve.
“Going into this year, our concern was that our farmstand would trickle, it’s no longer going to rage, because people are going back to stores and the farmers market. In fact, the opposite has happened.” Most of their sales now come from the stand. He isn’t looking for new wholesale accounts, and quit going to the market altogether.
A Meal From the Farmstand
We were having this discussion in his barn while he trimmed garlic with a team of interns and employees, as a welcome rain rattled the metal roof. Somehow, the conversation turned to a meal that Josh had recently made from produce he snagged from the farmstand. It consisted of sweet corn pancakes topped with fresh salsa, alongside new potato salad. The general response to the meal boiled down to: “I was like, so full, but I like, needed to keep eating.”
My family reached a similar conclusion, after a very enjoyable cooking session where I modified his recipe to make the pancake batter thinner, so the finished product was more like a crepe. It’s so much fun to work with the beautiful tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onions, corn, and cilantro, that it feels more like hanging out with friends—old friends I haven’t seen since last year’s harvest.
These light, delicate crepes will go well with either sweet or savory toppings. For this meal, serve it with salsa and new potatoes, and garnish with meat.
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 4 cups fresh corn kernels, cut off the cob, divided
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups buttermilk
- Butter for frying
In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, salt and, baking powder.
In a blender, add the oil, eggs, water, buttermilk, and 3 cups of the corn and blend until liquified. Combine with the dry ingredients and let sit for about an hour.
When ready to cook, melt butter on a hot skillet and pour small crepes, about 4 inches across. Flip them when they start to bubble, after about 3 to 5 minutes.
This recipe is best with a diversity of tomatoes, like only summer can provide.
- 8 cups chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups chopped sweet onions
- 2 cups sweet peppers
- Hot peppers or chile powder, al gusto
- Chopped cilantro, al gusto
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Combine the ingredients and let sit for about an hour.
Farmstand New Potato Salad
A little bit Asian. A little bit German. A little bit of mayo. What else do you need?
- 2 pounds new potatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups chopped yellow onions
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons mayo
- 10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Cut the potatoes to equal size and steam until tender.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onions and garlic. When the onions are translucent, add the soy sauce and lemon juice and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to coat. Add the mayo and bacon, stir again, and serve.