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Ledyard - Residents hungry for a taste of summer are heading to the town's Farmers' Market ready to indulge in fresh, hand-picked produce.
This year, an array of colorful produce, jams, maple syrup, honey, cookies, dog treats and natural body care products will entice shoppers.
On a recent Wednesday, eight vendors were ready for business.
Standing under an umbrella to hide from the heat of the sun, Jo-Ann Desrochers of Purity Farms in Moosup and Plainfield offered market patrons one-quart baskets of plump looking strawberries.
"The strawberry season just begun," she said, fingering the green baskets. "We planted 5,000 strawberry plants and if they take, hopefully we'll have them well through the summer."
She said 9,000 onions and shallots as well as 100 peach, plum and apricot trees were also planted for the summer on her 18th century farm.
Jars of plum, strawberry and mixed fruit jams made from scratch beg to be opened and spread on muffins, scones and tarts. Desrochers said she recommends trying them on ice cream.
Nearby, Norwich vendor Cat Egan displays her handmade all-natural "Cattails" cosmetics.
Working in a health food store for 11 years, Egan said she realized the need for cosmetics "without the fillers."
"With all the hype with the fillers with names you can't pronounce in store products, natural is much better," she said.
Egan, an herbalist, mixes bees wax, essential and olive oils into some of her products like rosemary and peppermint scented lip balms and lemon-zest scented skin moisturizers. She also sells face masks made of oat and clay powders, eucalyptus bath salts and lavender room spray.
Feel free to smear some of her silky moisturizer on your hands or take a small packet of the face mask as samples of her products are available.
"I think people are becoming more aware of what they put on their skin. People tend to trust the (beauty) industry, but they just don't know what they're putting on."
Market master Bob Burns, of Ledyard's Aiki Farms, also believes in the purity of ingredients.
Bowls full of Garbanzo, sprouting Mung and Lentil beans, pea shoots and mixed green salad are on display for market patrons and Burns freely spoons out samples of his offerings.
Burns said the market is an organic market.
"The vendors do not use herbicides, pesticides or artificial fertilizer," he said, mentioning that most small organic growers in the area are not certified. When asked why, Burns said the difficult certification process is something many farmers don't have the money or time to pursue.
"The chemical companies are trying to influence certification," he said.
Some of the 13 vendors scheduled to appear at the market each Wednesday have not appeared because a majority of their produce isn't quite ready, Burns said, even though he does expect a full slate of vendors at the next market.
Looking for an all natural product for man's best friend?
Lisa and Chris Baker of Norwich's Baker's Dozen offer grain free treats made free of sugars, additives and preservatives.
The idea stemmed when Solara, the family's retired racing Greyhound, developed a grain allergy, Lisa Baker said.
"We had to buy grain free food and treats for her and I didn't know what half of the ingredients listed in the food or treats even were," she said.
Flavors like "Nutty Dog" are made with organic crunchy
peanut butter and Farmer's Cow milk. For dogs with peanut allergies, the "Harvest Dog" treat is made of organic pumpkin, cinnamon and butter made of sunflower seeds. They are working on rolling out a variety of new flavors, but each flavor must be tested and analyzed by the state's Department of Agriculture before they are certified and approved for sale, Chris Baker said. The "Nutty Dog" and "Harvest Dog" flavors are certifed by the state, he said.
While the dog treats may not be a choice snack by humans, the Baker's do sample their own treats with help of their other dog, Orion, who won't leave the kitchen once the baking begins.
"If you wouldn't eat it, why should they," Chris Baker said.
The Ledyard Farmer's Market is open every Wednesday until Sept. 28, from 4-7 p.m. on the fairgrounds.
Preston also hosts a farmers' market every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Route 164, the Preston Plains School. The Preston market will be open until Oct. 29.