Christmas in July means something different to everyone.
For us, it is going to Blaine's Farm Store. Every visit we find new things.
There are other fruit and vegetable stands around, but Blaine's is special to us with its friendly, welcoming staff, at-the-farm vibe with rows of crops right up to the store, a wide selection of local produce and Blaine Diffendaffer's tomatoes and vegetables.
This is the fifth year for the store and Blaine's 14th year growing in the Grand Valley. His family has been farming in Colorado and the West for generations.
We heard about Blaine's tomatoes at restaurants shortly after we arrived in Grand Junction. We didn't know what they were or where to buy them, but we did know that they were amazing: tender, juicy, so much flavor!
We asked around and were told that Blaine is THE tomato man around here. We agree!
He has tomatoes before almost anyone else — the first ripe ones are around Mother's Day — and grows many different varieties. The flavors are all wonderful.
We buy his San Marzano plum tomatoes to can and to eat on salads. His Green Zebra is a gentle, flavorful green striped tomato. His beefsteaks make wonderful sandwiches. And his heirlooms are spectacular peeks into the past when tomatoes were, well, richly flavored tomatoes!
Although Blaine specializes in tomatoes, he does an excellent job growing all manner of other crops. We particularly enjoy his basil, onions, baby cucumbers and okra (when it comes in season).
His produce is typically picked and brought to the store the same day, often within an hour or two.
What makes Blaine's Farm Store an almost daily stop are two things: the staff and the quality/variety of produce and products.
The staff is enthusiastic and welcoming. Mary Miller has run the day-to-day operations in the shop from the beginning. Andrea Evans came on soon after the shop opened and, new this year is Abigail Richardson.
They all get to know their customers quickly and are very helpful and friendly. The know the stock and what is coming, and if they don't have an answer, there is a notebook they use to get every answer they can.
The quality and variety are exceptional. Blaine's produce is top-shelf quality. He also supports other local farmers and producers and stocks their fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads and more in the shop. The name of the source is always identified. All are selected to be top quality.
There also are refrigerator and freezer items, such as Palisade's Ghost Rock Farm butter and cheese, Rocking W cheese, Ryan's fresh salsas, eggs (sometimes even duck eggs) and Roan Creek Ranch meat.
It's pretty much everything you could want. All the produce is from our valley and the rest of the offerings are Colorado only.
A CSA (community supported agriculture) option is available. It is a prepaid account that gives you a discount on Blaine-grown items. We are happy CSA subscribers and even reload our account during the season. But that is just an option. You can certainly just go and shop.
If you have kids, there is a small play area in front of the shop with a table and chairs and some toys and books. New this year is a playhouse built for Blaine's mother when she was a child. It was moved to the shop and children can play inside while you shop.
The store has a down-to-earth feel. The products selected and displayed with such care make you feel like going home and cooking. The staff make you feel welcome.
We leave happy every time.
The Browns have a curiosity streak that runs broad and deep. So far it hasn't gotten them in too much trouble, and its rewards have been great. They are curious what interesting places you have found. Send your ideas to BrownsAroundTown@outlook.com. Their column appears here the first Friday of every month.