Farm in the Spotlight. What's at the Market? Recipes.
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Saturdays through September 28th | 8 am to Noon
Beargrass Christian Church, 4100 Shelbyville Road

History of Farming in St. Matthews
By Art Lander of Holy Branch Farm and Bluegrass Bowls

It’s no surprise that the St. Matthews Farmers Market has been so tremendously successful since it opened in 2007. The campus of Beargrass Christian Church is strategically located on our community’s major thoroughfare. The layout of the tents creates a festive L-shaped market, with plenty of room for shoppers to circulate and socialize. Live music and the smell of coffee and breakfast food fills the air.

The market committee, market manager and volunteer staff do a great job at keeping everything running smoothly. A weekly e-newsletter sent to the market’s loyal customers details the local products that vendors will offer for sale every Saturday -- fresh produce, meats, wine and cheese, and arts and crafts. As we gather for another season of fellowship and local food, let’s reflect on what might be another reason for our market’s success -- the agricultural heritage of St. Matthews. These roots run deep and date back to the 18th century.

The area around the Falls of the Ohio River, what would become Jefferson County, must have been a paradise -- local waterways rich in fish and mussels, fertile soils, wetlands filled with waterfowl in the fall, and the forest uplands supported eastern elk, wild turkeys, and white-tailed deer. These were prime hunting grounds, battled over for centuries by the Shawnee and Iroquois. Col. James John Floyd, of Virginia, the county’s first landowner and early settler, had his pick of the most geographically desirable land. In November, 1779, he built a cabin, and later a fort, on Beargrass Creek, five minutes south of our market site, on what is now Breckinridge Lane. His estate was a 1,000 acre tract at the heart of St. Matthews.

Other veterans who were awarded parcels of land for their service in the French and Indian War, and later, the American Revolution, built plantations in the region during the early 19th century. The major crops were tobacco, hemp and livestock. Later, farmers diversified their crops, and a local food economy was established.
Our community developed because the surrounding farmland was fertile, and well watered by springs. Strategically located on a pioneer road (Shelbyville Road) that connected the Falls of the Ohio with the seat of state government and the Bluegrass Region, the town was known as Gilman’s Point in the 1840s. Re-named St. Matthews in 1851, initial development was around the intersection of Westport Road, but other important  roads converged here, too. At the turn of the 20th century, the center of St. Matthews was an open space with a scale where produce and other agricultural products were weighed.
As the population grew, farmers began to concentrate on raising potatoes and onions as cash crops. An influx of Irish brought more demand for these staples. In 1909, the St. Matthews Ice and Cold Storage opened. The facility made and sold ice, and offered local farmers a place to store and refrigerate produce, fruits, meats and other perishables, prior to their sale. In 1910, a cooperative was formed to market, and negotiate the sale price of local produce, primarily potatoes. The St. Matthews Produce Exchange, which operated into the 1940s, was adjacent to the “ice house.”
An inter urban spur line connected Louisville to these new facilities, which made St. Matthews the marketplace for the region’s agricultural products. Crops came in from surrounding communities and the railroad shipped them to Louisville and distant cities. So many potatoes were grown here that St. Matthews became a major center in the country for this crop. By 1920, more than 13 million pounds were sold.
A 1925 article in the Christian Science Monitor pointed out that Jefferson County “was noted as the leader in second-crop  potatoes. Its climate and soil permitted two crops of tubers on the same land in the same year.” At that time the St. Matthews Produce Exchange had 400 members and shipped 1,200 train car loads of potatoes and onions annually. The area began changing in the mid-20th century. Gradually the farms were subdivided and developed with residential housing, and shopping developments.
But our community’s agricultural heritage continues anew each Saturday that the St. Matthews Farmers Market is open, when farmers from the surrounding region come here to sell their crops. Our forebearers would be proud.


What's at the Market this week?

Sweet corn is here! Blueberries are still here. Cucumbers and all varieties of squash are in. Heirloom tomatoes are in and beautiful green beans are ripe for the choosing. Stop by and see Harmony Fields for some delicious, tiny potatoes to cook with your beans. Lamb burgers, brats and cuts of all types are available from Stone Burr Lamb and others. Peaches are available by the basket so stop and see Dave Garey to take some home. Our musical guest is Pat Younger. Our alternate vendors are Blueberries of Daviess County, Beaded Treasures, the Daily Cake, and Horseshoe Bend Winery.

Featured Recipe
Iron Skillet Charred Corn

Our featured recipe this week is Iron Skillet Charred Corn. Fried corn has long been a staple of the Southern summer diet. It's delicious and adds a special flavor to any grilled meats at supper. If you aren't sure how to keep your iron skillet seasoned, a primer created by Southern Living is here.

8 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
1/4 cup bacon, cut into small dice
1/2 tsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup Vidalia onion, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
Cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. chives, minced
To remove corn kernels, cut off the ends of each ear to make flat surfaces. Then, stand ears in a wide casserole dish and, one at a time, carefully cut down the sides with a sharp knife. Next, hold each cob over a bowl and scrape with the back of a butter knife to remove the milk and pulp. Discard cobs and set liquid aside.

Heat a cast-iron pan on medium-high. Add cut corn and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add bacon and continue to cook until kernels are slightly charred. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low. Add onion and cook until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add pulp liquid, charred corn, and heavy cream. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chives and serve.
Recipe from Garden and Gun Magazine and chef Whitney Otawka of Farm 255 in Athens, Georgia.

Maker in the Spotlight
Beaded Treasures

Surekha Kulkarni started Beaded Treasures to provide refugee women with the tools and resources to overcome economic, social, and linguistic barriers to success. Beaded Treasures uses an innovative application of microcredit, subsidized costs, small scale sustainable practices, and instructional opportunities, to generate income, eliminate the middleman and become self-sufficient entrepreneurs. Surekha and her team strive to promote positive social change by the feminist expression of art and strongly believe that when women and girls advance, so does society.

The group of women offer a wide variety of unique handcrafted jewelry and accessories made right here in Louisville. Beaded Treasures members are former refugees who meet on a regular basis to learn new skills and receive support in marketing and financial literacy.
The stories of their members have a common theme, love of craft, family, and a desire to begin in a new country following extreme unrest and war in their homelands. Let’s meet just a few of the artisans of Beaded Treasures as to hear their stories is inspiring.

Conflict in Iraq forced Sally to flee to Syria where she lived for three years before finally resettling in Louisville a year ago.  She loves developing her own unique jewelry designs and experimenting with new techniques.  She especially enjoys crafting one-of-a-kind earrings and working with wire.  When not making jewelry, she is busy caring for her growing family. 
Odette moved to Louisville in 2001 to flee the war in Congo. She has 3 children and considers Louisville her hometown. She enjoys reading, cooking, gardening, sewing and of course, making jewelry! Odette dreams of opening an African art shop filled with clothing, jewelry and paintings.

Maryam moved to Louisville 3 years ago from war torn Iraq. She learned jewelry making from her mother Nadira, who recently joined Beaded Treasures as well, making two generations. It is amazing how she finds time to make gorgeous jewelry in between chasing her 3 little boys. Maryam enjoys watching movies when her little ones are in bed and she dreams of opening her own business one day.
Please stop by their booth on the Shelbyville Road side of the market. Their path to self-sufficiency is inspiring. Learn more here

Maker in the Spotlight
Lexington Pasta

The idea for Lexington Pasta was born when Lesme Romero and Reinaldo Gonzalez became good friends as college students in Cleveland. They had grown up in South America with Spanish fathers and Italian mothers, and both loved good food.  They shared an apartment in the Little Italy neighborhood and worked four years as cooks in some of Cleveland's best Italian restaurants, where they learned to make fresh pasta.

One of these places was always packed with lines at the door at dinner time, even though winter. Their secret? They cook with fresh pasta. It was homemade, infused with natural flavors and never used after seven days. The job was fun.  Making flavored pastas became the most fun part of the job.

A few years later, Reinaldo became an engineer and Lesme a business man. Reinaldo was working for a European food manufacturing company near Lexington and to align himself better with his job, he had become a Chef at Sullivan University. Lesme acquired an MBA and moved to Tampa, climbing the corporate ladder in the financial world. Although they lived in different cities, Reinaldo and Lesme always remained best friends.  They celebrated Thanksgiving, Keeneland, Derby, & summer vacations.

They frequented restaurants in Lexington and Tampa alike, but at the end of the day, nothing compared to the evenings making dinner at home, cooking fresh pasta and enjoying food and life like their elders had taught them.  Ten years later, while Lesme was visiting Reinaldo in Lexington, they both agreed that corporate America was not what they had imagined years ago in Cleveland, Ohio.

The following morning, Reinaldo took Lesme to Lexington’s Farmers Market to show him one of his favorite parts of the City, Cheapside Park. With that fresh produce in tow, they decided to have fresh pasta for dinner and discover some flavors they never had in Little Italy.  While still at the table, Lesme said, “This tastes so good and it is so much fun. I wish I could make a living doing this.” Reinaldo said in a half way serious tone, “We probably could. With my background in food manufacturing and culinary arts and your background in business, sales, and marketing, we can probably hit it out of the park.”

Reinaldo’s wife Heather said, “I think you guys are onto something and you could call it Lexington Pasta.” Lexington Pasta was born that night. Lesme went back to Tampa, but just long enough to arrange his move to Lexington. Since the summer of 2009, Reinaldo and Lesme have been making fresh pasta to satisfy the need of whole state that had nothing like it before.  Taste the difference yourself at the Market.
St. Matthews The Crossroads of Beargrass, by Samuel W. Thomas, published in 1999 by the St. Matthews Historical Society, is the main source of information for Art's article and is the source of this historic photograph of the St. Matthews market.

Upcoming Events:
Tomato Tasting, Saturday, August 3
Honey Tasting will be September 7.


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