Kathy Shaw, of 4 Season Farm Market in New Auburn, has been a farmer for most of her life.

“My great-grandfather was a market gardener who brought produce to the Boston markets in the late ’50s and mid-’60s,” she says.

Shaw’s father was also a farmer, and growing up on her family farm in Massachusetts, weeding was a necessary chore that often fell on her small shoulders.

Given her history as a self-proclaimed “child hostage” in the vegetable patches, says Shaw, “I never thought I would end up doing this!”

“As a kid, farming was the last thing on my agenda,” she adds, “but now I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

In 1975, Shaw moved to a tiny Maine island near Portland. She farmed there, growing vegetables as well as flowers.

“I shipped a lot of greenhouse plants to other islands,” she says.

She moved inland, to her farm on Sopers Mill Road in Auburn, in the mid-’90s. With her husband, Joe Gray, working with her, Shaw also took up landscape gardening for others in addition to tending her own fields and raising her livestock and fowl.

For a period of time, Shaw sold her produce at local farmers markets, where her expertise regarding locally grown food was highly regarded. And then, in 2014, Shaw took a leap of faith and opened 4 Season Farm Market at 9 Third St.

“Ninety-five percent of what we have in the store is made locally,” explains Shaw, whose shelves are stocked with well-known local brands such as ice cream made from the happy cows at Smiling Hill Farm in Scarborough, as well as blueberry, strawberry and raspberry jalapeno jams, to name just a few, produced by the folks at Auburn’s own Bert’s Awesome Stuff.

Shaw said she has “a local grocer who roasts coffee and a lady who makes teas” for 4 Season Market, in addition to beeswax candles from Rocky Mountain Farm in Upton and herbal salves and other products by Streaked Mountain Herbs, as well locally made soaps, candles, goats milk and butter.

“There are so many cool and interesting things that you can do with what we’ve got around here,” she said.

Shaw makes things like beautifully pink chive vinegar, rosemary-infused sea salt, pickled fiddleheads and packages of balanced herbal collections from her garden destined to enhance soups.

In addition to the plethora of greens that Shaw grows on her farm, she also grows radishes, zucchini, onions, peas, rhubarb, tomatoes, all sorts of squash, broccoli and other vegetables. Though she grows some potatoes, she obtains most of her spuds from other local growers such as Bell Farms.

“We’ve also got wild blueberries,” sometimes referred to as low bush blueberries, she said. They’re ripe now and will be in season through the end of August. High bush blueberries will begin ripening in early August. Although strawberries are now past, and blackberries all but gone, when in season she grows and sells them, too.

“So much of the yield is weather dependent,” says Shaw, “and with this heat and dryness” crops have struggled.

In the winter, Shaw uses a “high tunnel,” a covered 100 foot by 32 foot garden space that is sunk into the ground about 2.5 feet, for growing greens year-round.

In addition to what springs from the earth, Shaw raises livestock and other critters.

“We have chickens, Katahdin sheep, meat rabbits, Thanksgiving turkeys and beef critters,” she says, “all of which are raised on pasture.”

Shaw makes a variety of sausage from her own pigs. She also raises ducks, geese and quail, selling their eggs at the market.

“I like to make a rice dish with vegetables,” she says, adding that when the rice is almost done she breaks a handful of quail eggs on top of it so that they will cook through. She also fries them up and serves them on top of a summer salad (see recipe).

The list of other unusual and healthful offerings at the 4 Season Farm Market includes chaga and kombucha.

Chaga, explains Shaw, “is a mushroom, or fungi, that grows off of birch trees. It’s very dense.”

“We cut it into small pieces and put it through a meat grinder to make it really fine,” she said. Ground chaga can be used to make a tea which reportedly helps to oxygenate the blood, helping every cell in the body. “It’s a superfood, like kale,” she said.

“Kombucha,” says Shaw, “is a naturally fermented beverage that has the same sort of health properties as chaga.” Kombucha begins with a “SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and a strong tea, like a black or green tea.” “It can have a tart, zingy or mild taste,” and Shaw sweetens it with sugar or honey, “anything to help bring out the sweetness.” She flavors it even more with fruit and, sometimes, chaga.

“The longer it sits,” she says, “the more it will have for a giddyup go,” in terms of flavor.

4 Season Farm Market sells chaga by the pound and kombucha in canning jars. It also sells healthy prepared foods and meals to go. Neighbors and friends stop by often to reap the harvest that Shaw has sewn, making her market a healthy and happy place to visit.

“We sell soups in the winter and things like macaroni salad and potato salad in the summer,” says Shaw. Other prepared foods include humus, a bean spread which Shaw sometimes makes with garlic, kale and/or other vegetables, as well as pesto made with items such as garlic scape.

Very little goes to waste at 4 Season Farm Market. Garlic scape, the green shoots that grow from garlic that were formerly discarded, are presently, according to Shaw, “considered gourmet.” (See her recipe for a green and flavorful garlic scape pesto.)

Even with her husband’s help, tending livestock, growing fruits and vegetables and managing a busy market can make for a day with too few hours, and so 4 Season Farm Market relies on apprentices who help with cooking and other tasks. The market is open every day but Sunday.

According to Shaw, “Our state is really blessed with a diverse cross-culture of creative people, and what you can find for local foods and local products is truly remarkable. You can buy nearly everything you need from a local supplier, at a reasonable price.”

“Local food,” explains Shaw, “isn’t just tasty, it’s good for you,” and it’s good for your community.

Serves 3

Ingrediants:

2/3 pound of fresh garlic scapes

1 cup walnuts

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Place in food processor. Add olive oil until smooth. Serve immediately or freeze. Use over pasta, as dip or as pizza sauce.

Summer salad

Serves 2

Ingrediants:

1 cup red leaf lettuce

1 cup kale

4 plum tomatoes

1 cucumber

4 quail eggs

Flat parsley (as garnish/to taste)

Thai basil (as garnish/to taste)

Olive oil

2 lemon wedges

Mix the greens together and spread evenly over two plates, garnish. Diagonally slice the cucumber, cut tomatoes in half, spread those over plates.

Cook quail egg sunny-side up, over medium heat, for 45 to 90 seconds (do not flip). Place two cooked eggs over each salad, add course butcher black pepper and spritz with olive oil and a lemon wedge.  


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