I was very lucky to have had the experience of living on a farm for a part of my childhood. My grandparents were dairy farmers and also had extensive vegetable gardens; entire fields of produce that they sold, canned or used to barter with their neighbors. I know first hand that food tastes much better right from the garden, still warm from the sun. I truly believe that those early days on that farm connected me to the earth in a way that has influenced my entire life and certainly instilled in me a deep respect for those who have the title of “farmer”.
If you look at the faces of people shopping at the grocery store, do you ever try to imagine what they are thinking of? I imagine that they are thinking of things like, “what’s on sale and what can I afford?” “What looks good in the produce aisle?” “How much time do I have to cook dinner tonight and still drive the children to soccer practice?” It never once occurs to me that they might be thinking, “I wonder who grew (and/or) raised this food that I am going to take home and feed to my family?” Do you ever ask yourself that question? We think of food coming to us in cans, in boxes and neat and clean on produce shelves most likely delivered by an 18 wheeler from a distribution plant somewhere. Then ask yourself how fresh is the “fresh” produce? When was that lettuce picked in California? Yesterday? Hmmmm I don’t think so.
For the past few months I’ve been a regular vendor at a couple of Farmer’s Markets in our area, vending my book and sweetened dried cranberry products. I’ve gotten to know many of our local farmers and I’ve had the pleasure of eating FRESH produce and vegetables even in February as many are using their greenhouses year round to grow fresh, LOCAL, food. Not only do I eat fresh produce but I’m able to purchase grass-fed beef that is raised locally, pork and chicken as well. At the Pawtucket Farmer’s Market I’m even able to purchase shell-fish, lobster and fresh fish that was, I’m told by the fish monger, swimming in the ocean yesterday. There is home-made barbecue sauce, cheeses from local farms and even coffee that is fair trade and less expensive than a grocery store chain. I’ve built up a steady group of regular customers at both of the markets I do and look forward to seeing them weekly or bi-weekly. I truly feel that as a regular vendor I’m offering a service to the people who “shop” at the farmer’s market.
It’s a great feeling to sit down to a dinner of local food with your family and to be able to actually share stories about the people who grow it. It raises your consciousness to the fact that a person is responsible for providing your food. A person with a family to support who gets up in the worst weather and tends to those animals or crops so that they can earn a living and serve the people who depend on them. A person with a mortgage just like yours and kids who need to go to college as yours have.
The next time you make out a list for the grocery store why don’t you bring it to one of your local, farmer’s markets? See what you can purchase at the market and then go to a grocery store and fill in the rest. You will be amazed at what fun it will be to shop and what great food you will be able to buy to feed your family. It’s fun; almost a carnival like atmosphere with music at most markets and lots of interesting things to see. If you’re in the Rhode Island area stop by and say hi to me at the Pawtucket Indoor Winter Market on Saturday’s from 10-1 and if you live in Massachusetts come on over to Attleboro Farm Gardens and say hi from 12-4….information on both markets is available online and on the Fairland Farm website www.fairlandfarm.net.