I fear this one is going to sound a little soap box esque. I apologize in advance if it does and thank you for allowing me to get a tiny bit rant-ish. It is just going to have to be like this though, because I feel really strongly about farmer’s markets and I want everyone else to feel strongly about them as well.
Usually on Saturday afternoon’s I call my mom back in Vermont to see how her sales at the local farmer’s market went. I don’t know why I bother to ask that initial question, she always says the same thing, “I dunno, I never know until I count the money.” “I know mom,” I always say with calm assertion, “but how was it?” Then she launches into the varying discussion that ranges from what person came by the table and asked what question… to how hot or cold it was and how that affected the cooking of miniature burger samples on the George Foreman… to what the favored cut of beef was. If you poke her a little, and get her past the money part, it becomes a long winded discussion of the minute to minute playback of the farmer’s market in small town Vermont. I love it. The best part is the very next day, I have the opportunity to get up early in the morning while the city of LA is still sleeping and head to my favorite farmer’s market.
At this point, it has become kind of a ritual, I try to wake early, put on my overalls, my straw cowboy hat and grab my mesh bag. The city still sleeps, but they will be up in a few hours and probably heading to the farmer’s market, so I need to get there before the crowd. The overalls are the outfit that I used to see on others and wear myself growing up. I have, for the most part, retired it due to vanity and probably fruitless attempts to stay in fashion. But anything goes at the farmer’s market, that’s part of the reason I love it. People just do their own thing there.
At the farmer’s market, I feel like I am home. The farmers are nice. They are hard workers. They get up early. They grow things. Their lives circle around the crops and the weather and the harvest. I get that lifestyle and I want to support it. We do so little that we used to do as a primitive people. We have changed so much about the way people live life. But farming has not changed, well, except of course the tractors and equipment. Farming is still about simplicity, basically how good a crop can you grow and how fast can you sell it.
I want to be the person that buys the farmer’s food. I want to see their faces. I want to know their names. I want to fill my body with things that were just picked, just put on a van and truck and immediately sold. I want to cook from vegetables that I don’t have to take out of a plastic wrapper. (Of course that is not always possible. Sometimes I need to go to the grocery store out of convenience or necessity. And in those moments, I happily cook whatever they sell, I just prefer the farmer’s market.)
Steve, the peach man always tells me whether the yellow or white are better or if I should just go for the nectarines. Sharon and her husband make the vegetable recommendations about what’s coming into season and what is headed out. The bread man tells me which of the loaves are the tastiest and top sellers for the week. Freddie, the fruit man, says something about how long its been since he saw me last (it is always 7 days) and then makes some flirtatious innuendo while hand picking his selection of whatever fruit he thinks is the tastiest. I trust all of their judgment; after all, they grew it.
There are a few drawbacks, which must be spoken so you will have informed consent when trying it out. Farmer’s markets get really busy around 10 and stay busy until closing. Because the culture allows for people to do their own thing, sometimes that increases selfishness amongst customers. Do not be surprised if someone bumps into you and doesn’t acknowledge it, cuts in front of you in line or takes the vegetable you had your hand on. Also, farmer’s markets usually draw a crowd that has money. The prices are a little higher than in the grocery store, for the most part although sometimes you can find deals. The customers having money can further increase the self-centered experience. Also, just make sure to double wash the vegetables as sometimes they can have more dirt on them. Those are the drawbacks as far as I have seen.
It’s funny. The passion I have for farmer’s markets really has very little to do with the food, although of course the food is fresh and yummy. It is about the community. It is about feeling connected. It is about me walking up to a table full of food that a person produced and honoring their hard work by paying whatever money they ask for. I am showing my respect for an older way of being, a slower way of being. I am doing my part in showing my preference with my money; that we do not continue to box, wrap, cage, and preserve our foods. I am also showing my preference with my money that I prefer human connection and community over convenience. If you want, meet me out there, you’ll find me in the overalls.