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The farmers market report: asparagus and rhubarb

Spring at the Regional Market looks and tastes like asparagus, rhubarb:

Looking for signs of spring on a chilly Saturday, I joined a stream of people wearing jackets and even hats hurrying into the Regional Market on May 17. At 7:30 a.m. the parking lot nearest the buildings at 2100 Park St. was almost full, and some people were already leaving with their purchases.

I knew I was in luck when I saw farmer Mike Madison and his daughter, Erika, from Belle Terre Farm located near Sodus in Wayne County. They were selling bunches of dark green asparagus for $3. He grows five acres of asparagus, and this is the third week he has been able to harvest.

Further evidence of locally-grown spring produce came in the form of large bunches of rhubarb sold for $1.50 at a table for the Paine Farm, located south of Fulton. Seth Paine is from the sixth generation of farmers in his family. He and his siblings had cut the rhubarb the day before.

"We help out and everything," he said.

The family gets up at 2 a.m. to sell produce and doughnuts at the market on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year. During the growing season, family members also come to the market on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Seth said.

His father, Ben Paine, was in the booth next to the table making doughnuts that sell for 50 cents each or $5 per dozen.

"There's always a line," said Seth about the fried cakes, and this day was no exception.

Market shopper Tammy Gonroff was standing in line with at least 10 other people, "Oh my god, you have to have one, she said, "they're really good."

As I left the doughnut line, I saw that rhubarb from the Harding Farm, located near Williamson, was selling for $2.50 a bunch. Jim Harding, a former BOCES agriculture teacher, has been farming for 35 years. He was also selling raspberry canes for planting--a fall variety called Heritage-- and rhubarb plants.

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