Farmers markets are fun and exciting, but to me they’re much more than a once-in-a-while excursion. To me, they’re about building community and placing value on food and food systems that not only work, but are nutritious, too. You may have seen my post last year about how to plan for markets, which was a little intro to planning your trip and getting the most out of your attendance. This post, however, will go into depth on their importance and will hopefully get you attending more often.
I’m 100% in the farmers market camp and have been since I started taking food more seriously. After having worked a lot of farmers markets in the past two months, I’ve met lots of people and families who come from a ways away to attend markets in the city so they can sell the fruits of their labour to the public, and let me tell you, I’ve come to appreciate farmers on a new level.
Let me break it down into their two natural components: farmers AND markets. First, the farmers. How can you not praise people who give you life? We literally need food to survive, and yet our connection to it has been far removed. Farmers need our attention now more than ever. Why?
About quality, longevity, nutrition, accessibility, community, and so much more. They care that you receive good quality food to serve yourself and your family. They go the distance to bring you food that’s grown a few towns away so you’re nourished as locally as possible. Every week is a chance to bring each other closer together while, hopefully, bringing more regulars to the market by turning out a hearty supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. Compare that to the stuff you can buy at a grocer. The shelf-life is much longer at markets because the food is typically harvested within the past 24 hours.
Most farmers even grow organically, though you may not know it. Most that I talk to grow food using organic and sustainable methods, but can’t afford the certification. If organic is important to you, ask your farmer whether they use pesticides and other sprays, or if they grow organic.
FARMERS WORK TOO DARN HARD
These people are dedicated to working their butts off to get good food to you. I worked 12+ hour days on market days that were in the same city as I lived and I wasn’t even growing the food or driving a long distance to get there, so imagine what out-of-town farmers do to bring you the goods. They come out in the crappies of crappy weather, stand on their feet for 4-6 hours at a time, set up and tear down all their gear, and then go home and work on growing more food. It’s nuts, but I’m so thankful they do it.
FARMERS NEED SUPPORT
There are a lot of things out of balance about our food systems. One is accessibility, both monetarily and locationally. No system is perfect and this one is still growing. As we start to make organic food more mainstream, prices will go down and more markets will pop up as needed. But, as with anything, change can’t happen without your voting dollars. If this is something that’s important to you, start helping the shift happen by spending your hard-earned dollars (however much you can afford) in this direction and watch your money go to work.
My hope is that more people will continue to develop their green thumb and be supported by a community-based system that prides the hard work of farmers big and small, making the work less harsh and more respected.
On to markets. Who doesn’t love a good community event? Honestly, no matter the mood I’m in, once I’m at a market I perk right up. I love seeing people come together all looking for their favourite foods, products, and people. Which brings me to their importance…
MARKETS BREED COMMUNITY
Markets bring farmers closer to other farmers to share and develop ideas. They also bring customers closer together by giving them a reason get out of the house and step out of their normal shopping routine with friends and family. Most importantly, markets bring customers closer to their farmers. A lot of assumptions can be made about markets, including the idea that vendors are only there to sell. Of course, they’d love to sell all their products, but they’re also there to meet you and get to know you. The more they know about you the more they can help give you what you’d like. And, the more you know about them and their lives, the more you may value their products and tireless efforts.
I’ve learned a lot from attending markets as a vendor these past few weeks. Not only do I get to teach people about planting their own veggie and herb plants (I love to see the excitement on people’s faces!), but they teach me so much about gardening. When I talk to farmers the same thing happens. A lot of assumptions I’ve had about farming and our food system have been busted. The walls come down when you get to know the people you buy from and you start to understand each other in a new way. Markets provide a chance to do that.
MARKETS ARE THE NEW WAY
A hub of activity and excitement, markets inspire hope and promise of a new way of living. There are a lot of people on this planet and it would be nice if there were accessible and affordable food for all, but we are stuck in a system that is somewhat broken and needs a little love and care. With the right amount and focus on specific areas of attention, markets and shorter food chain systems like CSA’s are bringing the local food movement to the forefront.
Eating local helps the environment. We’re already starting to see a shift toward an appreciation for a life that is more community-supportive and earth-friendly, and the more we support local the more that can happen. More and more people are asking for change and farmers markets can help strengthen this movement. There’s still a big disconnect between wanting it and knowing how to get there, though, so pop on over to your local farmers market this week and get the ball rolling!