Down East 2013 ©
Timing is everything.
Apparently I missed the best part of South Portland’s farmer’s market debut this past Thursday when the city’s mayor, dressed up as a strawberry, performed a ribbon cutting ceremony as majestically as setting a ship to sail.
My tardiness was due to not being able to find the place.
Coming across the bridge into South Portland there are signs along the roadway announcing the market unveiling at Thomas Knight Park, but a SoPo visitor wouldn’t necessarily know this verdant park ground. For the interloper, mightn’t an arrow strategically placed to point travelers in the right direction have been a good move?
I drove around the city adrift like a lost balloon looking for the familiar farm-market site of white-topped canopies somewhere in the distance. Hopelessly lost I turned to my GPS, thinking that the park would be listed under Points of Interest. No chance. By twists and turns I found myself somewhere off Ocean St., which flanks the underpinnings of the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge  and snippets of waterfront through the trees.
It turns out the park is just down the road from South Portland’s main shopping area (besides the Maine Mall of course), which emerges out of a round-about like the Miracle Mile. There the beloved Smaha’s Legion Square Market  holds sway, as do the only lamp repair shop for hundreds of miles, Uncle Andy’s coffee shop, a Thai restaurant, the Q Street diner, and an intriguing new dining spot, Taco Trio, which has native Mexicans at the stove preparing regional taquitos and moles.
Truth be known I wasn’t so interested in the big event at hand anyway. My real reason for going was to forage for something for dinner at home. Unfortunately, the mayor was the only strawberry in sight, a poor topping for shortcake.
As I approached the market, I spied many shoppers leaving with cake boxes instead of the usual stash of greens.
In Portland there’s this dumb rule that only farm-grown products can be sold at the market so there’s very little in the way of farm-baked cakes and pastries. At SoPo, it’s primarily baked goods. Interesting.
There are two exceptions: Balfour Farms  whose unpasteurized milk, cream, butter, yogurt, and quark spreads, all with that seasonal yellow hue from grazing cows, are terrific. And the longest line - no surprise - was in front of Alewive's Brook Farm , the lone market vegetable monger. He had the first string beans of the season, and I wanted some, but was unwilling to stand in line for 15 minutes. Alewive’s Brook Farm, a Cape Elizabeth farm, is also known for its strawberries, which are unsprayed but priced reasonably at $6.50 for a quart. Unfortunately their strawberries are gone for now until the second crop is harvested in a few weeks.
The market is open on Thursdays from 3pm to 7pm, a good time to shop for dinner - or in this case a cake, cookie, or whoopie pie. I bought butter from Balfour for my shortcakes. As for the rest of the fixings I needed, I left the market and headed to Jordan's Farm  in Cape Elizabeth where string beans, potatoes, and berries were in great supply.