This is an edited version of my weekly newspaper column–again it is locally based–but has some food for thought on a wider basis too:
“Food has the ability to bring people together …” – The Stop
Sweet potatoes, garlic and herb bread, treats for my cat, natural bug repellent, grapefruit and mint soap, blackberry jam, a beautiful bunch of flowers for $5, asparagus, Lebanese garlic spread, some meatwiches (yes I made this up but I do not know what else to call them—they consisted of a lovely meat mixture ensconced in bread), and some radish sprouts. Those are the treasures I gleaned from Saturday’s Farmers Market in our fair town of Kingsville.
I love the idea of a Farmers Market. But more than the idea, I love going to farmers markets. I am so happy that we have one in the heart of town from now until October. The offerings thus far are abundant, and I am sure it is going to grow. I did not hit all of the stands that were set up, more than a dozen on its first venture out of the gate—but the ones I did hit gave me the feeling (and products) I wanted from the market. A feeling of a community coming together to offer not only quality goods but camaraderie—a sense of “we are all in this together”.
The day dawned wet and cool (some might say cold), the grass was wet, but the vendors were there with their game faces on. Every vendor I stopped to talk to was beyond friendly, and those who had products which needed a bit of explanation provided it not in a “I want to sell it to you no matter what” kind of way, but in a lovely conversational way that made me want to buy and not back away.
Farmers Markets have been around for almost 10,000 years according to a web site called coincidentally enough Farmers Markets. Apparently they originated in Turkey and the Middle East and were born from the fact that farm families found they were producing more than they needed for survival so they offered their wares in a farmers market as a way to sell their excess—meeting the needs of local villagers and finding another source of income.
Farmers Markets, so says the article are a “wholly traditional way of selling agricultural and home manufactured products” and were once “integral to society and a part of everyday life” but saw a decline due to “urbanism and intensive farming….the advent of supermarkets and hypermarkets….” and the fact that people could buy pre-packaged food without worrying about seasonality. The article says that people “lost interest in food in general.”
That interest has been reignited—people are again interested in buying their food a little closer to the source, and what better way to do it than by visiting local Farmers Markets? I give the Food Channel some of the kudos for renewing our interest in fresh locally grown produce and to Jamie Oliver, English chef extraordinaire in particular.
According to Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis in “The Stop”, a book about how good food transformed a community (in Toronto) and inspired a movement: “food has the ability to bring people together”. Attending the weekly Farmers Market is not only satisfying in what you come away with to nourish your body; it nourishes the soul of our community. It brings us together as one, and fosters kinship, unity and co-operative spirit, from the group that has come together under the umbrella of the Kingsville Farmers Market to those of us who visit.
Thank you to those who had the foresight and gumption to organize this market. I, for one, will be a regular visitor—not just for the fresh food and imaginative products, but for that unseen yet precious commodity: community.