Jeanne Dietz-Band raises goats on a farm that looks like it's posing for a postcard, all rolling hills and weathered barns and happily grazing livestock.
She and her husband moved from the Washington suburbs to Washington County 10 years ago to escape the rat race as their three sons approached their teen years. Dietz-Band, who has a doctorate in molecular biology and genetics, chucked her career in biotech and became a stay-at-home goatherd.
"We were doing the suburban thing, working long hours," said Dietz-Band, whose husband continues to work as an electrical design engineer for the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. "Our life was crazy hectic. We made a lifestyle decision."
Now, a decade into it, this quaint farming venture is about to take her someplace decidedly less bucolic: a parking lot under a highway in downtown Baltimore.
When the Baltimore Farmers' Market opens for the season Sunday, Dietz-Band will be there as a vendor, selling goat meat, goat sausages and goat's milk soaps.
She is one of several newcomers who will be in the mix this year as the market opens for its 33rd season.
Among the others will be a vendor selling vegan waffles and desserts. Another will offer exotic Rice Krispie treats made with kosher beef-based gelatin and topped with handmade caramel, dark Belgian chocolate, or dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds. The restaurant Desert Cafe will sell unique flavors of hummus. More new booths will offer granola, cupcakes, jams and salsa.
There's even a new vendor who's peddling pedaling. Wheely Good Smoothies will sell fruit drinks made in bicycle-powered blenders. (The wheels drive a shaft that drives the blender.)
In all, there will be 12 new farmers and concessionaires participating in Maryland's largest producers-only market, which is open every Sunday through Dec. 19 from 7 a.m. until sell out (usually about noon). That brings to 87 the number of vendors offering produce, meats, poultry, seafood, prepared Asian, Caribbean, Indian and Latin foods, baked goods, honey, preserves, herbs and other plants.
Some of the farmers will not appear right away because it's still too early for their crops. The market, located on Saratoga Street between Holliday and Gay streets, should be in full swing by the end of June, according to the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, which puts it on.
Last year the market expanded to offer craft vendors, averaging about 10 a week selling home decor items, fashion accessories and art. This year, the number of craft vendors is expected to average twice that. Some new food concessionaires will be located near the crafters, including bike-smoothie guy Natan Lawson.
Lawson is the 21-year-old entrepreneur behind Wheely Good Smoothies. He says the pedal-powered approach is not just a sideshow. Nor is it a tribute to the ill-fated bicycle-powered haircutting machine created by the crackpot inventor in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," a movie Lawson has no memory of ever seeing.
"It's meant to get your attention," he said of the bike bit. "But if the smoothies weren't good, it would just be all show."
Lawson did a lot of research before launching the business.
"I bought all the smoothie recipe books on Amazon," he said. "I went through them all."
He wound up developing his own flavors, which he tested on neighbors and friends.
Among the blends he'll be offering: Strawberry Spice, which combines OJ, strawberries and basil; The Fuzz, which has two whole peaches, organic lemonade and a little chipotle spice; and Blueberries and Cream, made with just that, plus some banana and apple juice.
The price for each 16-ounce smoothie is $5.50, or $5 for customers who do the pedaling themselves. He has three bikes hooked up to blenders, two for adults, one for kids.
Maybe a little more than half of all customers choose to pedal. At least that was his experience when he tried out the concept at Artscape last year. For Lawson, it meant so much cycling that even fruit drinks couldn't sustain the smoothie guy on a busy day.
"I was just chugging Ensure — pedaling for 12 hours a day and not having time to eat lunch," he said of his Artscape debut. (Lawson went on to sell the smoothies at Waverly Farmers' Market last summer. He'll return to that market in June.)
As Lawson tries to get his footing at the downtown market, so will that goat farmer from Washington County.
Dietz-Band supplements her goats' grazing with a bit of locally grown barley and soy. She does not give the animals hormones or routine antibiotics. She makes her soap with goats' milk, vegetable oils and herbs. She does not make goat cheese. (She already has three friends in that line of work and figured they didn't need any more competition.)
Now, after a decade spent carefully building her herd and developing her soaps, she'll find out if the market is ready for them.
Dietz-Band will come downtown in a refrigerated truck stuffed with vacuum-packed, frozen meat. The cuts will sound familiar enough: loin chops ($11.99 a pound), stew cubes ($10.99), ground ($7.99). So will the sausage varieties, which all sell for $10.99 a pound: sweet and hot Italian, chorizo, English-style bangers, onion-garlic brats.
The meat will probably seem foreign to many people at the market, who might have encountered goat at ethnic restaurants and halal markets, if at all.
Dietz-Band thinks people will like goat if they give it a try. She described the meat as having a "much milder, sweeter flavor than lamb, lower in fat than skinless chicken breast and higher in protein and iron than beef." She'll provide recipes so customers will know how to cook it, including one for goat bangers and mash.
"Even if they've had it before, they probably haven't cooked it before," she said. "For most people, it is a new experience."
Many Rocks Farm's Goat Bangers & Mash
1 lb. Many Rocks Farm British-Style Goat Bangers
1 lb. yellow onions, peeled and cut in rough chunks
1 teaspoon prepared English mustard
A pinch of ground dried thyme (or finely snip some fresh thyme)
1 cup apple cider (fresh, unpasteurized cider or unfiltered apple juice is the best)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large red eating apple
Homemade mashed potatoes
Prick the sausages a few times with a fork Brown the sausages lightly in a medium-sized cast iron or other heavy bottomed skillet. Use a small amount of olive oil or water to prevent sticking and drying out.
Pack the onions around the sausages, giving the pan a few shakes. The ingredients should fit snugly in the skillet.
Stir the mustard and thyme into the cider. Pour the cider mixture over the sausages and onions.
Cover and simmer (do not boil) over medium heat for about 30 minutes. The apple cider will combine with the other pan juices to make a rich gravy.
Season to taste with salt and pepper (freshly ground pepper is best)
Core, but do not peel, the apple. Cut the apple into 10 – 12 slices. Arrange the apple slices over the top of the sausages and onion. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. The apple pieces should soften, but keep their shape.
To serve: Arrange two sausages over a generous portion of mashed potatoes and top with onions, apples, and gravy.