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Saturday, June 6, 2009

10 Reasons to Love your Friendly Neighborhood Farmer's Market

Greetings My Friends!

If you stuck around long enough to read my second post, I sincerely thank you :) I'm thrilled that people are actually reading my blog, and I do hope that word of mouth/curiosity will eventually lead more people my way. Thank you to those of you who took the time to read/follow/comment, etc. And a HUGE thank you to the lovely and talented Brande for creating the awesome artwork that now adorns my blog title, woot!!! And, now, to the subject at hand:

On the slim but real assumption that there are people reading this blog who do not know me personally, and therefore have not heard me ramble (incessantly) on this topic, let me take a moment to mention my deep and enduring love for Farmer's Markets. Going to a Farmer's Market on a weekend morning in the warm months of the year is something that I, no joke, become palpably excited about. Growing up in the Syracuse area, I was lucky enough to have the Central New York Regional Market about ten minutes away from my house. Virtually every Saturday morning of my childhood, from April to November at least, found my mother and I at the market, visiting our favorite vendors and poking through the produce and other crafts.

I could go on and on about all the nostalgic reasons that I love the the market, because for me, the act of "going to the market" is tied very deeply to memories of childhood, family, sharing, mother/daughter bonding, etc. However, for the sake of something akin to staying on topic, I've distilled my ramblings into a Top Ten List of reasons you too should love, and regularly visit, your friendly neighborhood farmer's market. So, here ya go :)

10 Reasons to Visit a Farmer's Market: (In no particular order)

1. FRESH LOCAL PRODUCE! This one should be a no brainer, folks. Most produce that you see in the grocery store has traveled an average of 1,500 miles to get to you, and has been out of the ground for at least a few days, and in some cases, over a week. The majority of the produce you will find at a Farmer's Market has traveled less than 100 miles to get to you, and has been picked within the last 24 hours. Since I am home in Syracuse this weekend, I went to the Market this morning with my Mom. Among our purchases today were fresh baby spinach and strawberries. Both of which were grown locally in Baldwinsville, NY, a 20 minute drive from my front door. The strawberries were picked last night, and the spinach had been harvested that morning. The spinach was so fresh it still had a light film of dirt on it, and while some people may find this gross, I was pleased to see it, because it was definitely an indication of how short a period of time the spinach had been out of the ground. The strawberries, which were also pesticide free (yay!) were absolutely luscious. Strawberries will hit their peak about two weeks from now, in mid-to-late June, but even these early strawberries were ruby red, juicy, sweet with just a hint of tart, and DELICIOUS. There is absolutely no substitute for fruits and veggies grown within driving distance of your house and picked less than a day ago.

2. Fair Pricing: In virtually all of my market experiences, prices of produce in a Farmer's Market are either the same as grocery-store prices, or, more often, lower. And, in the realm of fresh food, you are getting more for your money. Your produce will be fresher, taste better, have retained more of it's nutritive qualities, it will last longer, and it is quite likely that it has not been treated with any preservatives, because it didn't have to survive a cross-country trip in a tractor trailer.

3. Exposure to different cultures. People of all ages, ethnicities and walks of life frequent farmer's markets. On any given visit, at least to the Syracuse Market, I will hear at least three other languages aside from English. Also, Farmer's Markets are wonderful places for people of different generations to bond over something familiar, good food :)

4. No Middle Man. Nine times out of ten, you are talking directly to the person who grew/cooked/baked/or otherwise crafted this item. They know their product intimately, and can tell you exactly what what went into the creation of their product. The soil it was grown in, the type of flour they prefer, how often a certain plant should be watered, etc. The vendors are eager to explain their processes, because they are proud of their product, because THEY MADE IT THEMSELVES. The vendors are by and large intelligent, friendly, ready to answer questions and always willing to strike up a conversation.

5. Keep money in your community. This should also be a no-brainer. When you buy local, you are supporting your community. You are speaking with your dollars. You are showing the "The Man", the government, the USDA, Agrbusiness, whatever you want to call it, that you feel strongly about supporting independently owned local businesses, and that efforts by agribusiness to crowd out or shut down small farms and independent growers ( because yes, this is happening, all across the U.S. at an alarming rate) are not welcome and will be met with consumer resistance. Did I just get a little political there? Ooops, sorry about that. Read *The Omnivore's Dilemma* by Michael Pollan and then you'll understand.

6. FRESH BAKED GOODS. Need I say more?

7. All kinds of artisinal crafts. Farmer's Markets, especially larger ones, often have far more than food. You can often find hand-crafted wood furniture, jewelry, clothing, homemade toiletries and beauty products, heirloom varieties of flowers, gourmet pasta, handmade toys, wines, and other household items that are one of a kind, at reasonable prices.

8. Virtually everyone there is in a good mood. Getting up early on a Saturday morning is not everyone's idea of a good time. Therefore, almost everyone you will see at a Farmer's Market is there because they WANT to be there. Everywhere I look I see people chatting with old friends or engaged in a lively conversation with a vendor. At a market, you will actually get service with a smile and be able to build a real relationship with your favorite vendors. The type of noise emanating from a busy open-air market is something I can't even attempt to desribe in print, I'm just not that gifted. Markets are happy places, just being in the atmosphere puts you in a good mood.

9. CUTE FUZZY ANIMALS. People will often bring kittens and puppies to sell at Farmer's Markets, and while this may be inconvenient for those with children in tow (Mom, can I keep him?) or those of us, who, like, me, are really just children trapped in adult's bodies, I will never turn up my nose at an opportunity to play with a kitten or puppy :)

10. A greater understanding and appreciation of your food. I don't know if I'm going to be able to explain this correctly, but I will try. Going to a grocery store has become very autopilot for many people. We get the same loaf of sandwich bread, lunch meat, breakfast cereal, whatever produce we like because stores have bascially the same thing all the time. We toss it in the cart and leave with no deep appreciation for where the food came from, beyond "it came from the store". At a market, what is available changes week to week and season to season. You become more aware of the seasonality of your food, what it took to create that food, what happened to it on it's journey to your plate. There is a connection there, one I don't sense in the confines of a
supermarket.

So,visit your local farmer's market. Most cities and towns, small and large, will have one, for at least May-October, and some have markets that take place all year round. If you live in New York State, here is a good place to start: www.nyfarmersmarket.com or, another good resource for locating farmer's markets all across the U.S. is www.localharvest.com

Vist your local market, you'll be glad you did!!

Oh! Wait! A bonus reason!

11. Better access to organic foods. Most markets will have a fair amount of organic food, and not just produce. For instance, at the Syracuse market, there are organic/free range/ pasture raised eggs, milk, yogurt, beef, chicken, honey and sausages :) And these are all at reasonable prices :)

Till Next Time!
Lynn

4 comments:

Brande said...

Amen!

Visiting farmer's markets is one of the things Dan and I added to our "Things to Appreciate" list. There's just *something* about the smell of fresh green beans pitting in that little cardboard pot that makes me smile inside.

And I envy you deeply for eating local strawberries. ENVY!

Jeremy said...

Sadly, I have not been to a farmers market since I was a kid. I used to go to a small one out in the Mohawk Valley when I would visit my grandparents. I suddenly feel ashamed that I've never been to the public market here in Rochester... though I have heard people rave about it.

LynnieBee said...

We should arrange a group-outing to the Rochester Public Market, I haven't been there in ages...

Lindsay said...

Let's go! I hate getting up early, but if it's a chance to spend time with you, then I'm all for it!