PHOENIX FAVORITE FINDS | Hank's Farm Market
Bringing local, fresh produce and a fun, family farm atmosphere to Cape Breton Island
One of my greatest hopes for this journey was that we'd be able to find and tap into really local resources as we go along, especially when it comes to food. I imagined picking up a killer jar of honey in an unexpected place, or a bag of coffee beans roasted just days before we pass through. Buying local farm fresh produce as much as possible, though, was the highest of my hopes.
Hank's Farm Market in Millville, Nova Scotia was the realization of this hope, an unexpected find that added so much to our stay in Cape Breton. We stayed quite a while outside of Sydney (at the KOA North Sydney/Cabot Trail campground) — close to two weeks — allowing ourselves to rest, recharge and run around exploring the area (like the Fortress of Louisbourg and the Cabot Trail).
Being only the first two weeks of this entire voyage, I was just beginning phase one of my Wellness Plan, focusing on food and experimenting with consciously creating healthy, delicious meals on the road. That made Hank's a divinely sent gift to aid me in my efforts.
We found this market on a local's recommendation. After stopping at a small store nearby to ask where I could find some fresh herbs for a pasta sauce, the woman replied "Probably at Hank's," with a strong Cape Breton accent. She described where to find it and off we went toward Millville, down King Grove Road, a drive we would repeat every couple days for the rest of our visit.
I swooned as soon as I walked inside of Hank's. The market was bustling with locals, chatting about what was happening in the area and new in each other's lives (the first time and every subsequent time we visited). Delicious fruits and vegetables lined one room, with fall mums, gourds and pumpkins in another. On more than one occasion, we indulged in Hank's shelf of fresh baked treats, none of which lasted very long in the trailer. A blond fudge, in particular, was absolutely mouthwatering as it melted on our tongues, and some of their oat cookies barely made it home.
Hank's is owned by Joanne and Conrad Neisten, and named for Conrad's father. It was Joanne, unbeknownst to me, who helped me find the herbs I needed for my pasta sauce on my first visit. And by find, I mean that she went outside and cut me a fresh bag of basil off the plant because they were out of stock inside. The bag was so full of leaves that I was able to make not only my pasta sauce that night, but also a fresh batch of pesto which I froze in ice cube trays for later use (it's sadly starting to run out now!).
Joanne was in the market nearly every time we went, which is impressive since the market is open seven days a week. She was always sweet, friendly and helpful and on my last visit, remarked, "Gee, you must eat a lot of vegetables!" I laughed, both pleased that she had noticed how often we were in the market, and but also reflecting on her words, thinking, yeah, we did eat a lot of vegetables when Hank's was nearby!
On that final visit, I stocked up on ingredients for a final Trailer Feast cooking session. I needed to create a few meals to last us for the following two days of driving, where we only partially set up, or not as all, since we get up and drive further the next morning. It's easy to heat things up, but not ideal to fully cook a meal in our kitchen when we're in transition.
I was sad on that final visit, as I took the photos below, to be leaving such a wonderful place. Hank's is a treasure of the communities and towns that surround it and kudos to the Neisten's for being at the heart of that treasure chest.
It's not only the market itself that is so dreamy. The Neisten's invite market visitors, kids and school groups to explore their entire property (or a large enough part that it seems to be endless access), making a visit to Hank's fun on many levels for every member of the family. There is a miniature village with replicas of local institutions and businesses (included Hank's itself!), a corn maze, a playground, a pond, a bouncy castle (for a few days in early fall, at least) and small animals, like bunnies, guinea pigs and chickens to visit and look at. I was happy to see the guinea pigs eating the very same kale that I had in my shopping bag. Lucky bugger, I thought, you have the life here! Plus, the Neisten's decorated for fall and Halloween just before we left, making the visit extra festive fun.