Monday, July 20, 2009
Special Feature: Farmhouse Produce, Dahlonega, GA
4690 Hwy. 52 E., Dahlonega, GA 30533 706-864-8968
Last Tuesday I dropped into Publix on West Paces Ferry Rd. in Atlanta because I remembered that I had failed to pick up a few tomatoes for a gazpacho Kyle and I were making for lunch later that week. I'd just finished reading a book touting locally grown produce, and I was bound and determined to purchase some Southern red tomatoes. When I spotted the organic tomatoes in the produce section, I was incensed to find that the label read "product of Canada." Canada?! Why did Publix carry Canadian tomatoes in the middle of the summer, when half of Georgia's population grows fantastic, juicy tomatoes in their gardens? If you can't get Georgia tomatoes at the grocery store in July, what is the world coming to?
The following Saturday I passed by the Farmhouse Produce store in route to my dad's house in Dahlonega, GA, and remembering the disappointment at Publix I turned in, eager to purchase some fresh Georgia produce at last. Inside, I found a wealth of delicious fruits and vegetables, as well as one of the owners, Cindy, manning the cash register. She and her husband Reggie run the place along with a very helpful and congenial crew.
While Farmhouse Produce can be considered a roadside stand, that's something of a stretch. It's really a store. In addition to fresh seasonal varieties like peaches, tomatoes and cucumbers, Farmhouse offers a large variety of salsas, preserves and ciders. One shelf held one of my dad's Southern favorites, chow-chow, and another contained Smokey Mountain watermelon rind pickles. I saw Scuppernong cider from nearby Cumming, GA, and "A Lot of Bull" hot sauce, from Hillside Orchard Farms in Tiger, GA. Outside there are bags of hot, boiled peanuts. In the wooden boxes along the wall I found Vidalia onions and a summer variety of squash I'd never seen before. Cindy informed me it was Georgia grown Patty Pan. I can't wait to saute' it this week and post a review.
While the owners make a special effort to stock the store with locally-grown produce, "local" is somewhat relative. I saw peaches from Georgia, but I also spotted peaches from South Carolina. The ham in the refrigerator was from North Carolina, and the jars of Apple Barn apple butter hailed from Sevierville, Tennessee. Lots of the jars of sauces, jams and relishes under the name of Farmhouse Produce don't indicate where the product was actually grown. By and large though, I feel like I'm "buying locally" when I shop there. I've stopped in during the summer when they've sold fresh peas, and have been very pleased to see that they were all grown in Georgia.
While I was inside, I bought the patty pan squash, a jar of Ray's Bees honey from Dahlonega (Cindy approved, assuring me that it was real "country honey"), and best of all, an apple walnut crumb cake which Cindy informed me was made by a Ms. Bobbi Howell. Herein lies the joy of the local produce stand: when's the last time you shopped in Kroger or Publix and the cashier could tell you the name of the local woman who baked the pie or cake you purchased? That Bobbi Howell sure can bake a delicious cake. My aunt Sue told me that Bobbi's banana nut bread is equally delicious.
If Dahlonega is too far for you to travel to pick up some beautiful red tomatoes or fresh peaches, I bet there is a roadside produce stand near you that can serve you equally or nearly as well. In Cobb County, GA, there is a good stand on Lower Roswell Rd. near the intersection of Johnson Ferry, and in Dekalb there's Sherry's Produce at 3863 Lawrenceville Hwy. (which also sells flowers) and David's Produce at 3561 LaVista Rd. My grandmother is a big fan of the homemade layer cakes sold there.
If you know of any great roadside stands near you, please share it with the community by posting a comment here.