By Karin Schott
FARMINGTON – The Marble Family Farms has reinvented itself again – this time by producing a value-added product they named Hotties. While Richard and Weslene Marble raise organic beef and cut hay, Andy and Sarah Marble grow organic vegetables.
In 2006, Andy and Sarah Marble had just finished a biking tour or the southwest when they started thinking about what they wanted to do afterwards. They knew they wanted to work outside, work with their hands and considered farming because they saw a need for good, fresh, local produce in our region. They both had degrees in biology from the University of Maine at Farmington. Andy had a focus on nutrition while Sarah concentrated on plants.
They began their farming adventure with two greenhouses and a grant from the Kellogg Foundation that taught them how to grow in hoop houses. They’re first big crop was spinach.
“We had 150 pounds of spinach and no market to sell it,” Andy Marble remembers. So they went all over town and sold it to restaurants and local grocers. They began selling at farmers’ markets. Soon they were able to expand the number of greenhouses with a grant from The Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Sarah and Weslene Marble also bake and sell bread and other baked goods at the Better Living Center, Tranten’s, Soup for You, Up Front and Pleasant Gourmet and most recently at Franklin Memorial Hospital.
Andy and Sarah Marble have been regular vendors at a couple of Farmington’s Farmers’ markets. However, this past season they began to change their business model and now grow primarily for the value-added product they named Hotties.
Hotties are pre-cooked and blast frozen vegetable filled pockets that can be heated up in the oven. microwaved or grilled. The current selection includes broccoli and cheddar, spinach and feta and a vegetarian Chili Con Hottie. They also offer Hotties that contain meat such as Shepherd’s pie and Beef Chili Con Hottie, but due to stringent federal regulations surrounding meat processing, these are currently available for retail sale only. All the ingredients are as local or organic as possible.
Once perfecting the recipe, they introduced them to the public by selling them at the weekly farmers’ markets. The customer response took them by surprise.
“I’d show up at 8:30 to start setting up my tent, and already have a line of customers waiting to get a fresh Hottie,” Sarah Marble said. “I’d bring 20 or 30, sometimes more, and be completely sold out by 9. We realized right then and there that we’d found the unique product we’d been looking for.”
These they sell directly to the public at festivals and fairs. Hotties are currently available at the Better Living Center located on Front Street in Farmington and can be ordered by contacting the Marbles directly at Marblefamilyfarms@hotmail.com They are also looking to market them at other health food stores in the state.
“With any luck we’ll be statewide by the end of 2014,” Andy Marble said with a smile.