What gives? In virtually everything we do, we’re simplifying, reducing, eliminating or shortening our routines. But when the season of farmers’ markets springs to life, we find ourselves going out of our way to get to them, only to buy product we can get elsewhere, with less effort and often at lower cost. Is it our relationship with food that has created this love affair, or is it something bigger than that?
Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE farmers’ markets, we’re just trying to understand the phenomenon. Apparently, we’re not the first to ponder this — you can find a comprehensive argument for markets on the website for the Quincy Market in Quincy, Mass., listed below.
The reasons fall into three categories:
- The food. It’s fresher, there are less common varieties of common produce, and because it’s of-the-moment/of-the-neighborhood, it’s actually often cheaper. Plus, if you want them, you can readily find organic foods.
- The shopping experience. It’s often open-air, populated by people from your immediate community, who feel the same way you do about food. You have a chance to strike up a conversation with the folks who grew what you’re buying, to ask them about how they grew it (and why), and about the health of their farm. It’s as if the food is more real ‘cause you know its parents.
- Value affirmation. For some, beyond the functional reasons for shopping at farmers’ markets, lies a powerful set of reasons that have little to do with the food itself. By supporting markets, we are supporting the honesty of local, family farming. Our space is too short to explore that archetype, but suffice it to say that we see ourselves as being green, local, honest, intimate, neighbourly, responsible, socially-conscious, and smart, all with the purchase of some heirloom tomatoes, and a bunch of leeks.
We live in an age where cynicism abounds, so farmers’ markets aren’t without their detractors, and some of the criticism they level is with reason. Here’s a link from the Freakonomics blog, that calls some of it out: http://www.freakonomics.com/2009/10/02/are-farmers-markets-that-good-for-us/
The gist of it is that farmers’ markets aren’t as green as we believe; that, in fact, our factory-farm, grocery-store food distribution system is way more efficient and effective at providing healthy food (and other stuff) at lower cost to more people with lower environmental cost. Oh, and that the community-building, value-affirming achievements of farmers’ markets don’t amount to a hill of measurable beans. (Clever, huh? We’re patting ourselves on the back for that metaphor).
But in the end you’ll be the judge. And we figure the easiest way to help that along is to help you find your way to a sampling of markets so you can experience them for yourself.
With this blog, we’re introducing a feature that will help you make changes in easy and measurable ways. Simply find the act that works for you and pledge to follow through.
WATCH: (for a smile) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_36IzKDSnR4
(for insight) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wkJHyC9eo8
ASK: How do you manage pest control on your farm? Not all farmers are organic, so if it’s important to you, ask.
DO: Bring reusable bags.
LINK: For a market near you, click here.
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