I recently read this article on why farmers markets have been so popular in the U.S., and I found it really interesting. When you break it down, there are many aspects about farmers markets that are inconvenient, including the hours (typically day time, or over the weekend, when working folks can’t attend), the need for cash only, the expensive price tag and the ability to buy only what produce is in season in the area you live in. So why do people still enjoy attending? Why have farmers markets grown 300% in the past 15 years in the U.S.?
The answer the article gives, and one I agree with, is that farmers markets give food a face. They help people understand that other people grow their food and work hard at it, and it allows consumers to ask questions about products directly to the farmer. There is something wonderful and communal about a farmers market, with all the customers wandering around with their babies or dogs, eating snacks from this vendor or that.
When I was living in Chicago and deciding upon a CSA provider, I chose one based on the fact that it was the only CSA in the city that I could pick up at a farmers market, where I could speak to the farmer and her assistants. Once the farmer got to know me, special produce kept popping up in my CSA box because she knew I loved to cooked, a random hunk of wasabi, the occasional package of homemade Amish butter might also appear, or a locally made cheddar.
I was able to ask the farmer how my carrot was grown, and how she enjoyed cooking carrots before going home and cooking with it myself. I would share canning recipes with my farmer, and she would hook me up with some extra heirloom tomatoes when they were in season. So I have to say that I agree with this article, in that farmers markets are beneficial because they give food and farming a face and make it important to urban dwellers. I agree because I witnessed it myself, even though it was technically through a CSA.
Food is so important to our daily lives because it is a foreign substance that we put inside of our bodies. Being able to know where your food came from, how it was grown, and the best way to store and prepare it is an invaluable experience you simply cannot get by shopping at the local grocery store, and one I happy to have at my finger tips. Why do you like your local farmers markets?