The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Regenerative farming practices
River Ridge stand offers fresh food year-round
MIDDLETOWN — Tucked away at 725 Main St., behind Eli Cannon Tap Room’s in an old trolley barn, is a trove of farm-fresh greens, vegetables and flowers that look freshly picked — because they are.
Crisp green lettuce and asparagus, aromatic scallions, and pearly white Japanese turnips were among some of the many vegetables on display recently at the River Ridge Farm farmers market.
The space has that industrial chic look popular now, with twostory-tall, whitewashed brick walls, wood rafter beams, string lights and whimsical chalkboard signs reading “Eating is an Agricultural Act” and “Locally Grown.”
There are also coolers of meats, salad dressings, milk and cheese, and shelves filled with honey and maple syrup, jam, bread and specialty dry pasta.
Dakota Rudloff-Eastman, coowner of River Ridge Farm, recently celebrated her first anniversary of running a year-round stand located about seven minutes from the Portland farm. She and her husband, Matthew Went, grow about 200 different varieties of fruit, vegetables and flowers using regenerative farming practices focusing on organic produce.
Asked what they grow, RudloffEastman quips, “It’s easier to say what we don’t grow, which is potatoes and sweet corn. We leave that to the big guys because it just does not make sense on a small scale,” she said.
“For the most part, if it grows in New England, we grow it. We have about 15 acres outside and about two-thirds of an acre of covered greenhouse space, so that’s how we grow all year,” she added.
The farm has plenty of space for growing crops, but lacked infrastructure for a salesroom, so when Rudloff-Eastman heard about the trolley barn being renovated, the couple was quick to make a deal.
“We just feel that having a brick-and-mortar place works better for us. It also provides an opportunity to bring in other like-minded ‘growers, doers and makers’ to have their products available year round also,” she said.
Shoppers who buy organic and local foods are likely already acquainted with some of the local featured businesses, such as Arethusa, Cato Corner, Mystic Cheese, Fat Stone Farm, Pan De Oro, Solstice Brewing, Sweet Grass Creamery, Before and After Farms and others.
In choosing who they buy from, being organic and proximity were key factors, but one goal was clear.
“We want everything we have in here to be the most delicious and amazing and trustworthy,” she said.
While splitting her time between the farm and the downtown farm stand, Rudolf-Eastman enjoys interacting with customers and introducing them to some items they might not see in the supermarket. “I just love the connection that food brings, it bridges all gaps,” she explained. “We want everyone to have access to quality organic products, and food that is healthy and good for you and grown in ways that are not degrading the planet.”
The market is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, riverridgefarmandmarket.com or 860-894-2436.