The frigid temperatures and winter rains keep us bound to the indoors, until clouds part revealing a sky swept to January blue. Fields of umber colored grasses and wheat straw crunch beneath one’s shoes. The sound of each step is amplified by air frosty and clear. Just below the surface earth renewed life tempts to emerge. I walk aware, awakened by recognition of this.

Often, I reexamine patterns formed in my life and work. I choose to abolish some, edit others and mark ways for self-improvement. Renewal and progress through process is my lifelong resolve. Ever observing the surrounding world, I return to deliberate upon ways sustainability may continue to grow. New charts are drawn, as past plans are reviewed and revised. The map is unfolded and the next part of the journey is realized.

Notations appear similarly on the list, “Each day learn something new, or better yet make it a few things rather than one. Do something that terrifies you, and grow to meet the next challenge with increased enthusiasm. Plant something, whether a token of enlightenment, a kind deed or word, or some organic form that might nourish and steward the well fare of others. Above all, be good to yourself, prioritize your lists, so that you might endure, thrive and teach as a testament to stewardship.” Daily practice has been established o’er the years. “Ancora Imparo,” Michelangelo reminds us, is key to progressive living beyond mere existence.

My walk takes me beyond the borders of this Alabama field. I chain the gate, start the car and begin one of my usual treks northward. This time the destination is Durham. Compelled to revisit the Nasher Museum, I plan to include luncheon at nearby Foster’s Market.

The name Sarah Foster has long been familiar to me. I can’t quite recall when I first heard the name; instead, I suppose I’ve always considered there to be some connection between iconic southern cooking, food television, and Martha Stewart. Some years ago, while at a dinner party, I met a humble and kind spoken lady to whom I was introduced. Knowing very little of her life’s work, contributions to southern cuisine, literature and her established model for business sustainability, I was given my first introduction to Sara Foster. Her personality upon our meeting provided an impression that remains with me. After that, it would be years before I made it a point to plan a trip to the Market, and this, I believe was just as it should be.

I searched the address. Google noted the hours, and the graph for business frequency displayed the time, stating “noon to two o’clock on Saturday, is as busy as it gets.” I arrived at one in the afternoon, pulled the car into the gravel parking lot and begin searching for a space. Bustling with activity, it is clear that this is where the locals meet. The front porch entrance provides a quintessential welcome, like home. With well-worn wooden floors the market embodies a warmth comparably part farmhouse and the other part reminiscent of a past century general store. Everywhere there is a certainty that everyone feels at home.

I found my way to one of the many counters, read the chalkboard menus and browsed the cases displaying delectable salads, hot meals, fresh breads, pastries and mile-high tempting desserts.

Foster's Market | Peanut Butter Pie Image Sarah West
Foster’s Market | Peanut Butter Pie
Image Sarah West

Inspired by the sunlight passing through the market window illuminating salads of proteins, winter squash, beans, fruit and greens, I made a selection and carried my plate to an enamel white and red table nestled between the thoughtfully stocked store shelves which proudly promote many locally sourced products such as preserves, syrups, cornmeal and the market’s namesake cookbooks. Among these I chose to add the 25th Anniversary Foster’s Market Cookbook to my own library.

Foster's Market Salads Image Sarah West
Foster’s Market Salads
Image Sarah West
Foster's Market Image Sarah West
Foster’s Market
Image Sarah West

As I savored this sensory experience combining all the beloved elements of food, farm, family, fellowship and community, I took notice of how well thought-out, designed and operated Foster’s Market is. It truly exemplifies stewardship and sustainability. Through the chef’s success in kitchen, garden and the business of cuisine her landmark continues to nourish the heart of well-being of region and community.

On my return from North Carolina, my spirit is replenished, my vision is reinforced all the more with renewed encouragement and zeal. I pour my morning coffee, review the list, and check them off one by one while paving the foundation-scape for enrichment through stewardship in this Alabama field.

-Sarah West

Alabama Field | Image Sarah West
Alabama Field | Image Sarah West