Sunday, January 8, 2012

Oh, Farmer's Market - How I've Missed Thee!

Last Saturday, after a three-month hiatus due to a Saturday morning course, I eagerly walked to my neighborhood farmer's market with my two-year-old in tow. After a stop at the bank, I walked across the street to find the two vendors who are there when the the farmer's market is lively with crowds buying "specialty" goods (April - September) and sluggish (October - February): Meredith's Bread and a family-owned farm from upstate New York.

Jay, who is Meredith's husband of "Meredith's Bread," immediately remembered Jonathan and welcomed us back with a huge smile and promises of a cookie for the kid. Jay's freebie cookies basically secured Jonathan's early love for the market, as soon as Jonathan could eat them. I used to hoist Jonathan in my Bjorn "baby backpack" and troop from my apartment to the market, so his memory of the market stretches as far back as he can remember. I made it my mission to show my son that food do not appear on shelves out of thin air; they are grown and cared for by people with faces and names. 

I bought a ham and swiss quiche, raisin swirl bread, pumpkin cookies for me, a giant double chocolate cookie for Dave, and chocolate lace cookies for Dave's family (which were a big hit with my sister-in-law!). I didn't realize until I unpacked my bag that Jay had added an extra treat for us - the rest of the oatmeal raisin cookies Jonathan had chosen as his freebie cookie. I vowed that I would always, always patronize "Meredith's Bread" every week if I could, even if I had no need for baked goods. I believe that this kind of relationship between producer and consumer is a rarity today and I feel sorry for those that do not or cannot experience its warmth.

The next and last stop was the produce stall. The person selling the items today is coincidentally a university professor as well - he helps his family by selling their food on the weekends. I usually chat with him on the latest agricultural or food movement news, while he rings up the fingerling potatoes, a head of green cabbage, onions, sweet potatoes, and dozen eggs (that don't need the "organic, free-range label" because it goes without saying) I wanted to purchase. He introduced me to another customer, Gwen, who lives on my block and works at City Tech, another CUNY college. We struck an animated conversation and parted with contact information, promising to stay in touch. 

This is not an extraordinary day at the farmer's market: a real relationship exists between vendors and customers, and customers with customers. These two vendors are here, rain or shine, fair or foul weather, to sell the goods nurtured from their own hands. They sit in their down parkas next to their portable heaters, unfailingly every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm. In the "high season," other vendors vie for the profit, but I always buy from those two who shiver in the cold in February just so I could have my quiche and bok choy for the week - no matter how cheaper the other vendors sell their wares.

When I go to a supermarket, I never, ever leave with the same kind of appreciation and restorative ebullience as I do at the farmer's market. It angers me to no end that people continue to frequent supermarkets for reasons of economics or convenience. I always spend less on Saturday mornings on fresh, clean produce than I ever would at the Shoprite.  

I have another Saturday morning course lined up for the spring semester. In the meantime, I'll make my weekly visit to the market, renewing my vigor and resolve to advocate for these vendors. 

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