Monday, November 18, 2013

The Downtown 3rd Farmers Market, Las Vegas!

     This article was edited on 9-3-2013.  A slide show was added!

     The New Farmers Market Trend
     Farmers markets of all shapes and sizes have been popping up in urban areas during the last few years.  Modern farmers markets are now located in places like upscale neighborhoods, plazas at busy intersections, cultural entertainment districts and center city high-rise buildings.  The new marketing strategy of these shops is to make farm fresh food easy for customers to find.  The theme of modern farmers markets focuses on locally grown agricultural products, organic food and farm sustainability.

     In the old days, farm produce stands were not easy for urban dwellers to access.  Even in today's age in some states, the only way to find a farm stand is to take a long drive down old country roads.  Sometimes the only indicators of where a farm stand can be found is a hand painted sign nailed to a fence post on the shoulder of an old two lane highway.  
     Word gets around out in the country, as to where a good farm stand can be found.  Along old travel routes that run through the countryside, a big old shade tree is a traditional location for a farm stand.  Asking local country folks at a gas station where a farm stand might be located, can result in a wild goose chase.  Many country folk do not always get out and about too often, so they may know where a farm stand was sometime in the recent past, but the current status of the business may not be known.  Going on a lead like this can result in driving 50 miles just to find an empty farm stand that has been abandoned for months.  

     In some rural communities, especially along major two lane travel routes, a farm stand is often located near the hub of a town's small business district.  Large easy to see signs or billboards advertise where these kinds of farm stand are.  These heavily advertised farm stands kind of act as a tourist attraction, as well as a market for the local community.  
     Fresh produce is not the only thing sold at these little country town farm stands.  The local residents market handcrafted products like honey, jerky, pickles, preserves, jellies and pies.  For those who miss the taste of country home cooking or for those who never experienced what hand crafted boysenberry jam is all about, small country town farm stands offer a treasure trove of good old fashioned food products to take back home.  

     Many big city folk take a leisurely drive through the country every Sunday, just to get some stress relief.  During the long scenic drive, many of these folks have a ritual that involves purchasing a jar of "Granny's Bread n' Butter Pickles" at a small farm stand out in the middle of nowhere.  After getting back home in the thick of the big city hustle and bustle, the jar of old fashioned pickles sits in the fridge, just like tonic in a medicine cabinet.  After a long day on a high pressure big city job, opening up the mason jar and eating a few old fashioned pickles spells out nothing but pure stress relief and old fashioned flavor heaven!  
     There is no use trying to tell somebody why driving 100 miles on a Sunday afternoon just to buy a jar of pickles is worth the trip.  It is the memories of the clean air, the scenery and the pleasant pace of the simple life that make the drive to a farm stand such a priceless venture.

     Not every citizen in a major city has the opportunity to take a long drive in the country.  If the customer cannot get to the farm stand, then bring the farm stand to the customer!  This is what the recent farmers market trend is all about.  Consumers want organic locally harvested produce that grown with sustainable farming methods.  Supporting locally grown organic food is the solution for many modern food chain problems.  
     Consumers do not want mass produced food that is contaminated with pesticides and chemicals.  Most people really do not want anything to do with GMO food at all.  The more that major corporations force their food production policies upon consumers, the stronger the demand for natural food becomes.  Modern farmers markets offer natural food options that consumers demand.
     Variety is the spice of life!  Modern farmers markets do not just offer the limited selection of vegetables and fruit that are found at common grocery stores.  Exotic fruit and vegetables can be found at modern farmers markets for a nice price.  Modern farmers markets are not just a place to buy a cheap bushel of pickling cucumbers, they are a destination for gourmet shoppers.  The photographs above certainly show what kind of selection can be found.

     The Downtown 3rd Farmers Market, Las Vegas!
     The Downtown 3rd Farmers Market is located next door to the Mob Museum in the old public transportation depot.  This market is open every Friday starting at 9:00AM.  Getting to the market early is always a good idea, because some items sell out quickly.  
     There is a nice selection of top quality locally grown, organic, sustainable produce at the Downtown 3rd Farmer's Market.  For those who crave old fashioned country style pickles, relish, jams and jellies, there are vendors at this market who offer nice quality products.  Everybody knows that vendors all have sales pitches to get consumers interested, but the best sales pitch of all is tasting a sample of the product.  One taste is all it takes to make a sale when the product is good.  

     I sampled some pickles that were offered by the Pickled Pantry vendor and their products tasted very nice.  This small batch pickling company also offered some spicy hot pickle products.  They actually had jars of Trinidad Scorpion Pepper Pickled Beets and I could not resist tasting a sample, because I am a hot chile pepper freak.  The spicy pickled beets were tastefully hot and only enough pepper was added to give the beets some character.  Trinidad Scorpion Peppers are the hottest peppers in the world, but when the right amount is added to a recipe, like pickled beets, a rich robust red habanero kind of flavor spreads through the ingredients.  A little bit of this super hot chile pepper breed goes a long way.  

     There was a honey vender on site who offered a wide variety of wildflower raw honey and domesticated flower honey.  Supporting the beekeepers is more important now than ever, because recent findings show that the same corporations who market GMO seed and agrochemicals may be part of the reason why bee populations have sharply declined in recent years.  One fact that will never be dismissed, is that if the bees become extinct, humanity will face extinction shortly after.  
     Honey offers good health and it has medicinal value.  Purchasing honey is not just the health conscious thing to do, it is what is necessary for helping to promote a flourishing bee population. 

     Those who have a sugary sweet tooth have options at this market too.  A vendor next to the honey display was selling old fashioned candies, toffee, fudge and brittle.  The sweet treats all looked really good.  Old fashioned stick candy always looks nice on the table during the holiday season. 
     Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many consumers prefer to purchase hand crafted pies, rather than bake their own for family gatherings.  Vickie's Fabulous Fare is a local Las Vegas vendor that markets sweet treats and fine desserts.  I tasted a few of thei cakes and pies while chatting up a storm, like all cooks do.  I was impressed by the quality of the desserts.  The flavors were right on the money and the textures were as they are supposed to be.  One cake that I really liked was the Rosemary Lemon Cake.  A delicate fresh green rosemary flavor could be tasted with every bite.  I have not seen a Rosemary Lemon Cake in over twenty years and I was pleased to see that this classic ckae flavor combination was not a forgotten relic of the past.  
     Vickie's Fabulous Fare also offers nice sweet treats like hand crafted Chocolate Hazelnut Spread.  Fans of "Nutella" know what this spread is, but those who buy mass produced commercial quality spreads really are not getting the best quality for their dollars spent.  Hand crafted Chocolate Hazelnut Spread has a much better flavor and texture.  One taste is all it takes to notice the difference.
     During the next few days, when people go on a holiday cake and pie shopping spree, many sources of fine baked goods will sell everything they have to offer in a short amount of time.  Not being able to land a good pie for the holiday dinner table can lead to a frustrating moment.  I have mentioned a few good holiday pie sources in recent weeks.  Since I recently found out about Vickie's Fabulous Fare, viewers in Las Vegas now have another option.  Vickies Fabulous Fare vends their products at the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market on Fridays and they also market their desserts Wednesdays at the Indoor Swap Meet at Decatur and Oakey. 

     Fresh baked artisan bread and cookies are more items that are in demand during the holiday season.  I chatted briefly with the Great Harvest Bread Company vendor and fount out that this bakery supplied the Las Vegas Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts College with bread that was used in cooking classes.  Specific kinds of bread are not always made by students on a daily basis, because such a wide variety of dessert making is taught in the Baking and Pastry course of study.  Nobody turns the ovens on when the class is learning how to make ice cream!  Outside baked good sources are necessary for a chef school to have and the lead chefs select the best sources.  
     I sampled a variety of savory and sweet bread.  One sample of a dark ginger spice bread really caught my attention.  This sweet tasting bread really had a nice aroma and the flavor was well balanced.  The savory bread samples exhibited high quality standards and there was no amateurish tunneling holes from over-mixing or lack of proper kneading time.  The Great Harvest Bread Company products were consistent and well crafted.  This bread vendor is at the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market on Fridays and they have two bakery locations in this city.  One site is at 6475 North Decatur near the 215 Beltway and the other bakery shop is at 4800 East Bonanza Road by the intersection of Nellis.    

     Just like many farmers markets that are located on travel routes or near tourist destinations, the downtown farm stand has more than just food vendors.  Artisan crafts, semiprecious gems, crystals, beads, Native American jewelry, hand crafted soaps, incense and natural cosmetics are just a few of the interesting products that are offered.  Local chefs do cooking demonstrations at the local farm markets and they often feature food items that spectators are not familiar with.  Kitchen equipment vendors market old fashioned cast iron pans and modern electric utensils.  
     Food trucks frequent the grounds and they serve up some trendy popular offerings.  Healthy food was was offered by the Abdoo's Fresh Mediterranean vendor while I was at the market and Haloumi looked tempting.  Ready to eat hot or cold entrees are available at this market and this is good for lunch break shoppers.
     I had a nice conversation with a lady from Germany who was selling hand crafted soaps and natural cosmetics.  She also had a line of tasty fresh dips and condiments.  Sin City Sue's had a really nice selection of crystals, semiprecious gems and hand crafted jewelry.  Indian Soul Art offered Native American Jewelry and interesting decorations.  All of the non-food products drew interest from shopper passing by and the vendors were fun to chat with.  Swap meet style vendors do make use of persistent tactful sales techniques, so be ready to strike up a bargain!

     I definitely recommend doing the Friday food shopping at the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market in Las Vegas!  By supporting the local farm markets, consumers are supporting local farmers, organic food production and sustainability.  These are all good causes and there is nothing better than guilt free dining!  Yum!       

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