On the Road: Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia — Lunenburg

This is the companion post to On the Road: Farm Stands of Long Island’s South Fork. It is best viewed at the blog site. If you are not viewing it there, click on the title above.

For many years I thought of vacationing in Nova Scotia. Just never got around to it. Part of the problem was I worked too hard and didn’t take enough time for myself. Also, for years I was a single father and Nova Scotia did not seem to offer the requisite father-son diversions. In late September Christina and I spent a week in Upper Kingsburg, located about an hour and a half from Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital. Halifax is a and a two-hour flight from Philadelphia. It was one of my best vacations ever — unyielding natural beauty and nothing to do. My only complaint is that I lost more games of Scrabble than I would have preferred.

Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s three maritime provinces, the others being Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. East to west, the province runs about 350 miles. Nearly surrounded by water — no place is more than 47 miles from water — Nova Scotia is attached to Canada by a narrow strip of land. It is the second smallest Canadian province, but with about a million residents, it’s second most densely populated.

Despite Nova Scotia’s relatively small land mass, its crenellated coast has about 6000 miles of coastline. And though it is the second most densely populated Canadian province, we’re talkin’ Canada here. The largest nearby town to our house was Lunenburg with a population of less than 3,000. Our rented house was about 25 minutes from Lunenburg and driving home one evening from dinner we passed only two cars coming the other way. After that we would do a little “how many cars do you think we’ll pass” wager each trip home and while it was never again that few, you get the idea. About 40% of Scotians live in greater Halifax.

Our rented home was high on a hill overlooking the Atlantic in Upper Kingsburg, on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. No, that’s not our home pictured.

But this is the view from our hilltop porch where I spent many hours just…well, just sitting. Hirtle Pond is in the foreground, Hirtle Beach in the background and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

This is the house! In some mysterious manner and through the wonders of the internet, Christina — having never been to Nova Scotia and knowing little about it  — found (doused?) this house while sitting at her desk in Philadelphia. Called Sliding House, it was designed by Nova Scotia architect and Sliding House neighbor, Brian MacKay-Lyons and is featured in the Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture — that sat on the desk of the house’s second floor bedroom. That’s the chair I sat on. The house only appears to be sliding. The main level has one long room — combination dining room, kitchen and living room plus that porch. The master bedroom is on the second floor rear and on the lower level is a second bedroom. The entire interior — floors, walls and ceiling are made of poplar planks.

Neighboring Lunenburg was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1995. Long a shipbuilding and fishing center, today Lunenburg’s principal industry is tourism. It is characterized by distinctive painted buildings.

Nova Scotia’s original inhabitants were the Mi’kmaqs. The French established one of the earliest European outposts in 1604 in Port Royal, on the North Shore. It was the oldest European settlement other than St. Augustine in what is now Florida. The French settlers, known as Acadians, were pushed out by the British in the mid-1700’s. It is these French Acadians who re-settled in another New World French Colony – Louisiana and are ancestors of the Cajuns.

Canada’s economy is resource-based and includes timber, minerals, agriculture and petroleum. Canada is our number one supplier of oil. In fact, the United States total petroleum imports from Canada dwarfs imports from any other country. The U.S imports about 2,534,000 barrels of petroleum a day from Canada. This compares with 1,289,000 from Mexico. Saudi Arabia comes in third at 1,053,000 barrels.

Nova Scotia’s prime farm land is in the Annapolis Valley, an area in the northwest of Nova Scotia.  There were also lots of farms around Lunenburg as well. Despite its relatively northern latitude — north of Maine — Nova Scotia’s climate is significantly moderated by the surrounding water. In late September, temperatures were not much cooler than Philadelphia.

Though I expected farmers’ markets depleted of summer’s bounty with mostly hardy greens and root vegetables, in fact Nova Scotia’s markets were filled with essentially the same mix of produce that I had left behind in Philadelphia. That’s Christina with a prize bunch of carrots secured from Moon Tide Farm, located on a windswept hill over-looking the Bay of Fundy. The farm proudly posted that they had recently turned in their tractor and shifted to two burly horses to do their plowing. Now that’s back to nature.

Lunenburg’s Thursday Farmers’ Market is located in the parking lot nestled between the Lunenburg Curling Club, the Lunenburg Area that houses the hockey rink and the Lunenburg Auditorium.

A farmers’ market is first and foremost a reflection of the community that it serves. Yes, there are better and worse farmers and more and less abundant markets, markets more or less diverse, stronger organic representation, with wonderful artisinal bakers and cheesemakers, or not. But what mostly establishes the character of a farmers’ market are the people who use it and how they use it.

What was most striking about Lunenburg’s market is the degree to which it is a social center for the community. How it accomplished this was both simple and marvelous. The market is laid our with the stands surrounding a central area where there were a generous number of bridge tables and chairs.

Though there wasn’t lots of prepared foods, there was enough.

The crepe stand menu…
Breakfast crepe with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and cheddar
Spinach & Goat’s Cheese
Ham & Cheese
Smoked Salmon
Lobster & Bechamel
Chocolate & Banana
Are you hungry?

And, of course, good coffee from the Laughing Whale.

Throw in a harp and dulcimer and you’ve got a Thursday morning community gathering — a place to linger with neighbors and not just a place to come and go. It was this aspect that made Lunenburg’s farmers’ market stand out from all of the markets I visited this summer.

Of course, the surrounding abundance of beautiful produce contributed to the overall atmosphere of warmth and generosity.

There always seems to be another clever way farmers display their goods.

Despite the waning of summer, rainbows of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant abounded.

And a rainbow sign Welcomes You to Watershed Farm and the Pollination Project.

The market featured about ten farms.

Here are edamame, aka soy beans.

Peaches and Cream is the name of yellow and white corn.

Naturally, there was lots of fish available, though surprisingly, most of it was frozen. And despite a week’s-worth of attempts to buy fresh Diver scallops, no success. And hardly a lobster in site.

There were three bread bakers.

Here baskets of baguettes rest by bags of apples.

On a long drive Christina and I took to the Bay of Fundy on the north shore, we discovered that Nova Scotia is nurturing an indigenous wine industry with distinctive varietals that can accommodate to a short growing season and yielding excellent “native” wines. The primary wine region is in the agricultural Annapolis Valley.

Fresh cut flowers for our dinner table and some dried lavender to take back to Philadelphia.

From the Hat Junkie I bought Christina a wonderful hand-crafted hat as a “souvenir” reminder of our trip to Nova Scotia. The Hat Junkie is a recent transplant to Lunenburg via Toronto and New York City.

Farmers are frequently searching for ways to extend their “product line.” Here’s a good idea worth spreading that I had never seen before — bags of smoked salts for sale from Rumtopf Farm. Imported French gray salt, mixed with farm-grown herbs, smoked, dried and ground.

Here is a stylish way of product sampling with the names of the products written on the butcher paper covering the table.

And here is an anthem from Wooly Mountain worthy of any farm …”Our goal is to produce clean, nutritious and great tasting food in a humane and environmentally friendly way.” I’ll second that.

So there you have it…Lunenburg’s Farmers’ Market. I strongly suggest you stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.

Next up: The Halifax Farmers’ Market

Thank you for visiting.

Your Home Entertaining Coach

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