Kim Wagner frequently quizzes her 30-year-old brother, Tyler, about his food-purchasing habits. “He says, ‘I want an app,’” she reports. “Millennials aren’t going to farmers markets.” Members of her brother’s generation, Wagner believes, appreciate having their shopping done for them, ordering via their phones and receiving a bag of pre-selected groceries. “He’d even like it if someone would cook it,” she laughs.

While her observations are not true across the board, Wagner, a longtime farmer and owner of Black Bottom Farm in Galena, is cognizant of a changing market and is adapting her business to meet it.

After 10 years of operating Black Bottom Farm on her own, Wagner recently began leasing a portion to a vegetable farmer, who will live in one of the houses on the property. She sold her pigs to another farmer, who has been pasturing them onsite as he learns the ropes. 

She also got together with about 20 other small producers to streamline distribution. In early spring, the newly formed Black Bottom Farm Collective, LLC began putting together boxes packed with a variety of goods–vegetables from Trouw Bidden Farm, eggs from Friendship Farm, Wagner’s own exotic mushrooms and microgreens, and even products like local kombucha and juices–for weekly delivery.

Recently, Chesapeake Harvest connected the collective to the Oxford Community Center (OCC), where it offers weekly deliveries to local residents. “They were looking for a high-end, local food box,” says Hannah Grose, who recently joined Wagner as a business partner at Black Bottom. “We’re calling them Farmer’s Choice boxes.”

“Chesapeake Harvest has been a wonderful partner,” Grose says. Along with introducing Black Bottom to Liza Ledford, executive director of the OCC, Chesapeake Harvest has helped individual members of the cooperative find wholesale markets for their goods. Black Bottom also participated in the Star Democrat Home, Garden & Craft Show in April. “It gave us a chance to meet new people who don’t always show up at farmers markets,” Grose says.

Black Bottom Farm Collective is starting to find customers further afield, like a weekly farmers market at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, where Grose recently sold goods from a variety of farms. “It doesn’t make sense for six different farmers to take time out of their day when we can put their wares together. We’re working on a new food model that emphasizes collaboration.” While in Baltimore, Grose collected email addresses from UMD employees interested in pre-ordering food. 

Meantime, the Oxford Community Center’s weekly “Patio Pick-Up Party” is a festive affair, with music, beverages (including beer and wine) and baked goods from the Oxford Fire Company Ladies’ Auxiliary for sale. The Black Bottom Farm Collective boxes, decorated with Chesapeake Harvest stickers, contain a selection of vegetables, mushrooms and microgreens. Customers can opt to add eggs, seafood, pork and other products. And yes, they can place orders with their phones.

For information, blackbottomfarmcollectivellc.com, or Hannah Grose, 410-657-2331. For information on ordering a box through the Oxford Community Center, contact lizaoxfordcc@gmail.com

We spend a lot of time educating farmers on requirements for food safety regulations, but we don’t often mention how consumers can minimize risks once the food gets to their kitchen. For instance, did you know you should wash your hands both before AND after you eat? Makes sense, right? – given all the ways your hands interact with your face when you’re munching on a meal.
 
Here’s another tip: Don’t wash produce until you’re ready to use it. Our friends at USDA explain in the short video on Right.

NEW FEATURE:

Our Local Picks

 
This growing season, we will be highlighting our choices for best eats and drinks from around the shore.
 
This month, a huge shoutout to a pair of Eastern Shore winners: asparagus and strawberries. Both are short-season crops, so locally raised harvests will disappear by month’s end. Eat them with abandon! Or freeze them for future use. Frozen asparagus won’t maintain its tender-crisp texture, but it’s still perfect for soups, quiches and casseroles. Strawberries can be pureed, cut, or frozen whole.

As always, ask for local options from your grocery store managers and favorite restaurants. Your food is here!