by Isabella Wade Photos: Rebecca D’Angelo
Summer is here, and that means long weekends at the beach, juicy watermelon, backyard barbecues, and warm sunshine.
Consider this: you can experience all those things you love about summer without packing up the car and heading to the coast. Just drop by Lakeside Farmers’ Market on any Wednesday or Saturday.
Grab some succulent strawberries to concoct a pitcher of delicious lemonade. Visit Kathe Wittig and examine her sea glass jewelry with your eyes and hands, and chances are you’ll imagine breathing in the salty air and watching the waves crash on the sandy shore. Or host a cookout, using spice rubs from The Wild Hares. (And don’t forget to ask them for a bite of their smoky pulled pork.)
“I don’t even buy produce at the grocery store during the summer,” says Kerry Ayers, a market regular. “It doesn’t taste nearly as good.” Kerry is accompanied by her adorable daughter, Adeline, who fabulously wears a pearl necklace every day. “We’ve got some asparagus and squash, and we’ll grill those,” Kerry continues. “And then we have some berries that won’t make it past a day. We try to come as often as we can.”
Peter and Sharon Francisco, the owners of Lakeside Farmers’ Market, sit in their lawn chairs and watch as shoppers interact with vendors, sort through produce, and sample products. “There are a lot of younger people moving in, so we’re seeing many new faces at the market,” Sharon tells me. “It’s really nice to see the growth of the neighborhood and the change of the clientele.”
The Franciscos started the market twelve years ago in order to attract more people to the Lakeside area, and because they love fresh fruits and vegetables. “I like fresh salads, and it’s nice to have the fresh lettuce and vegetables to be able to put into the salads,” says Sharon. “And you can have the fresh fruit for dessert. There are a lot of things I like to prepare from the market. In fact, sometimes I look at my plate and say, ‘Well, everything on this plate came from the market.’ It’s really nice to know that.”
Sharon tells me what’s in season right now. “Things are changing by the day, practically” she says. “The squash are coming in. We’ve had lettuce and spinach, radishes, broccoli, and other early crops. We also have both a meat and a bread vendor.”
The market even has a little farm attached to the property, Lakeside’s Tiny Acre, operated by Kyle Anderberg. “He likes to do things that are low impact on the earth,” Sharon says. “He tills the crops by hand, and he doesn’t use chemicals. He collects rain water in barrels and uses it to water the crops — not exclusively, of course, as we experience dry spells.”
Kyle Anderberg’s table is composed of three different types of kale (Tuscan, green curly, and purple curly), chard, lettuce mix, beets, kohlrabi, radishes, dill, cilantro, parsley, and mulberries. He is greatly looking forward to tomato season, which typically begins in late June or early July. “I really love cherry tomatoes,” he says. “I eat them like candy. I love slices on sandwiches and toast. Some people can them — the ones that aren’t as pretty are nice to can.”
Kathe Wittig, who grew up in Rhode Island, is a sea glass enthusiast. “I’ve been collecting for decades,” she say. “I always go to the second tideline, and that’s where I find the sea glass.” A member of the North American Sea Glass Association, Kathe swears that she will never harm the glass by cutting or tumbling it. “Every winter, I take my sea glass, spread it across a white table cloth, and begin matching pieces for earrings and deciding which ones would be good for necklaces,” she says. “As you’ll notice, with my earrings, they never, truly match. That’s because they’re real. I may find one color in New Jersey and another color in the Potomac River.”
She has a gorgeous display of seafoam greens, cornflower blues, and everything in between. “I’m very enthusiastic about this topic,” says Kathe. “I can’t stop talking about it. I love it. I just love it. I build every vacation around beaches.” She hopes to visit Seaham Hall Beach in England, where tourists can find unique, oval shaped, multicolored pieces. “There used to be a glass factory there,” she explains.
Though Kathe will be spending July on the beaches of New England, she will be at Lakeside Farmers’ Market throughout June.
Tom Barlow, co-founder of The Wild Hares, has some tips for anyone wanting to grill this summer. Displayed on his table are various rubs, a crock pot full of pulled pork, and grilled squash and zucchini. He hands me samples as he describes his rubs and sauces. “We’ve got a salt-free rub, a sugar-free (rub), and we’re developing both a coffee rub and a chili rub,” he says. “You can use a couple tablespoons of any rub and be done. We like to make it easier for people to prepare their own food, make it delicious, and enjoy grilling and cooking.”
Tom and his partner, Derek Weddle, started The Wild Hares as a passion project — they both work at Ferguson’s during the week. “We just play around with the flavors and see what people like.” He tells me that they’re in the midst of developing new sauces, including a chipotle one. “We thought this year would be the year to launch the sauce and see how it does,” he says.
His favorite way to prepare meat? “You can’t beat smoked meat,” Tom says. “Even if you put vegetables on the smoker, it adds another layer of flavor that’s hard to beat. If you don’t have a smoker, we have smoked salt, so you’ll still get that smoky flavor. The same goes for our sauce. We’ll prepare chicken in the crock pot sometimes (with the sauce), and you still get a great tasting meal without special equipment.”
“We had been reading about farmers’ markets being catalysts for revitalization in older shopping districts,” says Sharon Francisco, the prime mover behind the Farmers’ Market. “We went on and pursued the idea, because Henrico County didn’t have any farmers’ markets at the time. We were sort of the pioneers. We had to go through quite a bit of procedure to be able to do it. It took us three years, after we thought of it, to be able to have it come to life. We want to support the local food movement. We feel like it’s very important for people to know where their food comes from, and we want to support these young farmers who are coming along.”
Lakeside Farmers’ Market
Open Year Round Wednesdays and Saturdays
6110 Lakeside Avenue
Richmond, VA 23228