I can hardly wait for farm market season.
Because my community consists of a cluster of small cities, I have several markets from which to choose. My favorite is a Saturday market located in a shady park in an L-shaped historic district. In the shadow of hulking buildings from the 19th century with lovely brickwork and soaring turrets, I can find local fruits and vegetables and craft items. This one starts in mid-May.
Closer to home, there's another market that operates on Tuesdays and Fridays. Although it is located in the parking lot of a newer park and is a bit more established, although less scenic. The farmers who sell their produce here are fiercely independent! When the city wanted to change the market to Saturdays, they declined. It took them a few seasons to get accustomed to the new park, too. For years, the market was located along the river and when the city asked the farmers to move, they protested vehemently.
Sadly, I heard from one of my vendor friends that some of the farmers will not return this year. One died at the end of the season and several others have deemed it not profitable to participate. You can hardly blame them. The local markets are not as well attended as they might be in larger cities. The notion of eating low on the food chain is not widespread up here yet.
When I lived in Madison, the very popular Dane County Farmers Market was only four blocks away on the Capital Concourse. I'd go early for the freshest produce, carry my string bags home, and then go back mid-morning for more. I managed to live on about $25 a week those days.
Good value for fresh is certainly part of the draw of farm markets. But beyond that, there is a romance to buying directly from the grower and buying it in the time-honored tradition of an outdoor market.
I like the ritual of it. I like coming home laden with bags and bags of fresh green beans, radishes, carrots, tomatoes and peppers. I like the element of surprise, too, like the times last year when I found pears, plums and currants in addition to the ever-present apples. (I had to laugh when I saw a table of brassieres for sale at the market under the elevated Metro tracks at L'Hopital Pitie Salpetriere in the 13th in Paris. Totally unexpected!)
I like unpacking my purchases, cleaning them and storing them, one at a time. There is a rhythm to this process as there is a rhythm to the seasons. It is these rhythms that provide us with ballast in our lives.
Do you have a favorite farm market? What's your best farm market find to date? I love bringing home cilantro and garlic as they scent my car with the most delicious of combinations.