Farm Fever

May 23, 2010

I often sit and wonder what I did before there were Farmers Markets. It’s a stupid question, really. Because it’s not like I do much when I find the time to go. I admire (and sometimes play with) the many licking, wiggling dogs around me as well as peruse the varieties of vegetables, flowers and crafts. But I’m done in about thirty minutes. And hardly ever buy anything, though I desperately always want to.

I have been getting into cooking, however. And I’m planning to construct a dish out of produce that I find at the Market. That’s yet to have happened, but it will.

So I could survive without a Farmers Market pretty easily I think. But the fact remains that I don’t want to survive without one. I want them here. And I want to be there. I want to feel the inexplicable energy, be surrounded by dogs and food and strollers and hippies. Because there’s something bigger there than people and food. There’s an air of shared understanding. A belief in health and awareness of our earth and the subsequent rejection of superstore produce and pesticides.

Over the years, it has become about eating as close to the land as possible. Not proximity speaking but in reference to time. The quicker we eat the apple after it is off the tree. Or the carrot after it is pulled from the ground. That in comparison to eating grapes or bananas picked well before ripening time, then shipped across the country and stored in a warehouse, to be consumed two weeks later. That’s not health. That’s big business.

Farmer Markets, it’s true, have become chic, trendy places in recent years. But they’re nothing new. Ever since farmers have been growing more than enough to feed their families, they’ve been selling it. It’s not a new idea; it’s a recycled activity that became almost extinct with the introduction of urbanisation, supermarkets and worldwide transport.

But with the new population inheriting cancer, diabetes, obesity and a slew of other epidemics, our past lifestyles are being scrutinized.

And, in effect, Farmers Markets are being re-rolled out as the new “in” thing. And it’s about time.

Check out some of the many benefits outlined by the National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association at http://www.farmersmarket.net/benefits:

For consumers, there are the obvious health improvements that come with eating fresh foods and the ability to have direct contact with producers so as to know the origin of the food and how it is being produced.

Farmers save money by cutting out the middleman through direct selling and decrease in packing and transportation costs. Markets also open the way for small farms that don’t have the capacity to produce for supermarkets.

The best advantages, though, go to our environment. Vehicle pollution, noise and use of fossil fuels are largely decreased. And environmental awareness is constantly being heightened, leading to improved production practices, like elimination of crop pesticides, and farm diversification, which encourages farms to diversify in their use of the land, through crop rotation and tree planting.

There are many more benefits to be found. Find a local market, and get busy.

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