Growers Offer Products Directly to Customers
Those living in and around Crozet have a number of ways to support local growers, farmers, bakers and orchardists, many of whom have taken a hit from restaurant and school closures and have found new ways to reach out directly to consumers.
Opening in mid-June, the Crozet Farmers Market has moved a short distance from the parking lot of the Crozet Methodist Church as required by the church leadership in an effort to reduce crowds. The market now dispenses fresh produce, meat, flowers, bread and sweet treats from the space in the rear of the Blue Goose building. Al Minutolo, long-time market master, said the vendors have been spaced generously, are wearing masks, and take precautions between each transaction. In mid-June, there were a good number of vendors, and more are expected when the summer vegetables come in. The market is open Saturdays between 8 a.m. and noon, and vendors ask that patrons also wear masks.
The Nelson County Farmers Market is also in full swing. Please see separate article, page 46.
The Rockfish Valley Community Center has offered its services as a hub for local growers and also recruited volunteers to make the contact-free pickup work. Local wine, cheese, meat, vegetables, eggs, bread, vinegar and yogurt can be ordered in advance from the farm or bakery and picked up at the center on Thursday. Each vendor has its own procedures and payment information. Go to rockfishcc.org to find out what’s available and to order for Wednesday pickup.
Henley Orchard is open and has peaches available for pick-your-own, or customers can select fruit from the stand at The Shed. Early apples are coming in, and patrons can also buy hard cider and Henley’s grass-fed ground beef and specialty cuts. More apples are coming, August through October.
Every June, Chiles Family Peach Orchard has a happy moment when peaches, blueberries, apricots, nectarines and cherries (from Spring Valley orchard) are available, all at once, although the strawberries and cherries will be gone when this issue of the Gazette publishes. Vegetables are also available as they ripen. The Chiles family has detailed instructions for keeping everyone safe, and they’re dispensing containers at the beginning for pick-your-own patrons to fill, avoiding the step of weighing at the end. The complete list of precautions is available on the website or Facebook page. Call in advance to make sure of availability, or to order for a completely contact-free visit: 434-823-1583.
When Schuyler Greens owner John McMahon realized that many of his larger customers would be closing, he knew he’d have to do something immediately to avoid laying off staff. As quickly as he could, he developed an online store and offered delivery in Crozet as well as virtually any location in Albemarle County.
“Farming has always been an exercise in resilience,” he said, “regardless of the situation.” His store and delivery service expanded to help other farmers reach customers as well. He added mushrooms, cheese, flowers and berries from other hard-pressed growers, and he is still expanding, planning to deliver farm-raised meat and other products. McMahon plans to keep the deliveries going, regardless of the changes in restaurants and businesses. He’s enjoying the increased contact with the public: “This makes it all worthwhile.”
Order online for door-to-door delivery, or to pick up your order at the Crozet Library parking lot between 4:30 and 5:30 each Thursday. Everything’s online: schuylergreens.com.
The Wine Speaks for Itself
Perhaps you’ve wondered about a certain flair and finesse in the wines grown in and around Crozet from the bit of terroir that includes King Family, Afton and Pollak vineyards.
It’s no coincidence that the three winemakers at these wineries are French, members of what Virginia wine writer Frank Morgan calls the “French mafia.” Morgan, who writes a wine blog, drinkwhatyoulike.com, assembled a panel of the men, who are friends as well as colleagues, to introduce themselves to viewers during the COVID-19 lockdown, when wineries were doing everything they could to keep some kind of connection with the rural communities they serve.
Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards, Benoit Pineau of Pollak Vineyards, and Damien Blanchon of Afton Mountain Vineyards discussed their journey from the wine regions of France to jobs in rural Virginia, and each presented one of their prize-winning wines. Joining them were several wine personalities who were each invited to give a critical view of one of the three wines.
After the tasting, Morgan told the Gazette, “I’ve covered the Virginia wine industry for a decade and have judged most of the major local wine competitions and believe that Finot, Blanchon and Pineau are making some of the most notable wines in the state. This tasting showcased three of the best wines in the Monticello region and the state.”
Finot said that none of the men were friends until they found themselves within a few miles of each other in one small part of one of many American wine regions. It didn’t take long for them to become acquainted, he said: “Word travels fast in a small town, and you can’t hide the accent.” They’re all raising children in the area and the families meet often. Although they have a special bond, Finot said that most of the state’s winemakers know and try to support each other.
Unlike California, with uniform weather and rainfall, Virginia’s climate differs drastically from area to area and from year to year, much the same as the wine regions in France. It can be a challenge for the winemaker to adjust to the difficulties each season brings, they acknowledged.
Finot said they now consider themselves Virginia winemakers, having learned through years of wind and frost, sun and rain. The wines they presented in the video were all from the great vintage year of 2017, all Bordeaux-style blends, and all winners in the latest Governor’s Case state-wide competition. “But we don’t stay up at night hoping we can win a medal,” Finot said in the video. “We’re hoping to make wine we can be proud of.” In his case it was the Mountain Plains Red Blend. Pineau presented Pollak’s Meritage, and Blanchon talked about Afton’s Tradition.
Finot said it was fun for them to get together on the panel, full of good-natured teasing as well as praise from the experts. “But in the end, the wine speaks for itself,” he said.
Watch the video on the King Family Vineyards Facebook page.
Say it with Cookies
Nothing is more cheerful than a decorated cookie, and Jaclyn Shaffer took note of that when she ordered cookies years ago to serve as favors for her wedding. Many hundreds of pounds of flour, butter and sugar; hours of instruction via YouTube; and more than 500 cookie cutters later, Shaffer is running a thriving business from her home in Crozet.
“I always had it in the back of my mind to do when I was raising my children,” Shaffer said. In her life before children, she was a biologist working in the biotech industry. She’s been able to use some cool technology in her business, such as projecting designs on the baked cookies to trace with frosting. Despite her inventory of cookie cutters, she often has to come up with designs that are far outside the limits of conventional baking supplies.
Otherwise, her work is done the old-fashioned way, batch by batch, in her home kitchen, rolled out by hand and baked two cookie sheets at a time. It’s a process that takes several days, she said. First there’s the mixing and baking, then the first coat of royal icing, then the fine points of decorating. Since she began producing cookies full-time in April, she’s increased her business to bake more than 400 cookies each week.
Not all of the cookies are turned into custom designs. She offers do-it-yourself cookie decorating kits, a different theme each week. Recent ones have been Father’s Day and July 4th, as she tries to keep the themes timely. Each kit contains the cookies and a variety of icing colors suggested by the theme.
She has some anecdotes: One of her first attempts at decorated cookies was for a Halloween party, where the arms of the little ghost cookies proved to be unexpectedly fragile and all broke off. She rescued them by tinging the broken arms with red icing, to suggest a sinister incident. She’s decorated Elvis faces for a fan, and images from Broadway shows for someone who worked for years in the theater. She remembers an order from a fertility doctor that required her to design sugar cookie eggs and sperm.
Shaffer also takes orders for shipping, a laborious process that includes not only baking and decorating the cookies, but wrapping each one in bubble wrap.
Details about Jaclyn’s cookies, along with photos and each week’s cookie kit theme, can be found on her Facebook page. Or to inquire, email jaclyn’s [email protected].
A.P. Honors Sandy Hausman
Crozet reporter Sandy Hausman was honored with five major awards by the Virginias Associated Press Broadcasters.
Hausman, a journalist with Radio IQ, was named best reporter by the broadcasters and won first place in the spot news category and three second-place awards for both features and news.
Crozet Artisan Depot Reopens
The Depot has reopened its gallery doors and presents two concurrent shows in July: Encaustic paintings by artist Amanda Smith of Afton and paper collage art by Barbara Coyle Holt of Staunton. The shows will run from July 1-31 in the historic Crozet train depot.
Encaustic, an ancient medium, uses a mixture of beeswax, pigment and resin. Smith layers the materials into each other on the canvas with torches. The result is a blend of sculpture and painting, inspired by water, sand dunes, ferns, rocks and mineral.
Barbara Coyle Holt, a faculty member of the art department of Mary Baldwin University, creates vivid paper art from recycled magazines, envelopes, greeting cards and calendars. The artist transforms these tiny snippets into colorful collages that become jewelry, hair accessories, and other decorative items.
The Crozet Artisan Depot is a hub for the artist community of central Virginia and represents more than 80 regional artisans. For more information and updated business hours, please visit www.crozetartisandepot.com or www.facebook.com/crozetartisandepot.
Phase III of Virginia’s reopening, which began shortly before this issue of the Gazette was published, means restaurants and churches can allow more indoor seating. Many of Crozet’s restaurants were still contemplating the best way to open safely, so check their Facebook pages and websites for current information. Crozet Pizza is now open Mondays again beginning at 11:30, and will continue to offer the healthier and more portable additions to the menu as well as the long-time favorites.
Mudhouse is back dispensing coffee and baked goods in the Square. Crozet Antiques is closing at the end of the month. There will be discounts during the final days, and loyal patrons can travel down the Valley a few miles to visit the new location in the Factory Antique Mall in Verona. Grit has been serving people who pre-pay and pickup outside, and now welcomes people to order and pay inside.
Smoked closed for a week and has now reopened, with changes to the menu and a transition to biodegradable serving pieces. The Albemarle Ballet Theatre has served its patrons with online summer classes, and owner Sally Hart said the theatre will have some exciting news for its students soon.