Dear Farmers’ Market: 6 Reasons I Miss You

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Women love shopping.

If you believe the comics or magazines, you’ll know that statement is always true.  (Right?) The women in my husband’s family certainly fit nicely into the paradigm.  Shopping relaxes them. It energizes them.  For me, traditional shopping just drains me, which is perhaps why we don’t recreate together at the mall.

The farmers’ market is just the opposite.

Four Great Qualities of Farmers’ Markets

Ambience

When I tuck a baby into my sling and wander down the center lane between booths brimming with Crayola red tomatoes, tumbling bunches of fragrant herbs, a veritable forest of dark leafy greens, a cacophony of peppers of every shape and color imaginable (even purple!), and cobs of corn so fresh from the field that you can smell the sunshine on them, I am at once invigorated and at peace. It’s up to me to compare prices and quality of green beans and asparagus, perhaps with a quick snap to check crispness, and the mental challenge of keeping track of various vendors’ deals gives my mommy-brain a welcome break from light load/dark load and “who wants milk with dinner?”
Photo by Roger Lynn

Information

Outside shopping allows a certain sense of whimsy, the rush of the world confined in the walls of the shopping super centers and tall downtown buildings.  Just blocks away in another world, a wizened, wrinkled face confides in me that I don’t really need to wash the basil before I freeze it; it’s grown indoors.  I can sense the care he takes with his crops in the gentle tone of his voice, as if it would be herbicidal cruelty to thrust such tender plants outdoors where insects and weather forces could have their way with them.

He coached me on the ins and outs of using fresh basil so kindly that first year, I have ever since referred to him as “my basil man” and go out of my way to purchase from him, even when his zucchinis are less desirable than those down the way.  I don’t know my farmer’s name, but I do know that he passes on most conventional chemicals, almost shyly so, and he can tell me how to prepare anything he sells.  I don’t get that anywhere else outside of a Google search.
Photo by Darny

Community

Did you know that farmers’ market shoppers have ten times more conversations than those at the supermarket? Michael Pollan refers to local markets as the “new public squares of community health.”

Frugality

Only at the farmers’ market could I purchase just one sprig of dill for my first small batch of dill pickles, buy entire basil plants pulled on account of frost for only $2, and haggle a dollar off a basket of slightly dented tomatoes.  When I learned that “seconds” at the market were akin to reduced produce at the grocery store and often just the “ugly” versions of a fruit or vegetable, I was in frugal shopper heaven.

If you play your cards right, shopping at a local market can be not only eco-friendly and full of ambience, but it’s easily less expensive than shopping the sales at a supermarket.

Benefits for Children

Photo by Marc Smith

In a world of plastic as payment, I truly appreciate the opportunity to teach my children about using real money (it’s called cash, in case you, like me, have nearly forgotten its value).  I get a thrill when I hand my son a bill and ask him to pay the farmer, and the teachable moments are endless:

  • We bought two cucumbers for 50 cents each; how much should we owe?
  • If we give the man a $5 bill and we bought peaches for $3.50, how much will we get back?
  • What’s a better deal, three peppers for $2 or 50 cents per pepper?
  • This stand sells organic produce, so they don’t use chemicals. It costs a little more, but it’s worth it.
  • My kids would pass muster on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution – even my toddler recognizes garlic, cauliflower, and cucumbers.

Meal Planning Inspiration

I noticed this winter that I simply wasn’t inspired to meal plan many weeks.  I couldn’t figure out where my motivation had gone, and then I realized it was out in the fields.  Perusing all the lovely vegetables at my farmers’ market makes me want to buy them, so I do, and then I go home and think, “Now what?”  I am literally pushed by the produce in my refrigerator to find new recipes and continue to plan fresh meals, local and in-season, every week.  I miss that.
Photo by Ian BC North

Please hurry up, O Michigan growing season!  I want to be temped into buying a bunch of kale so I am forced to make this awesome Sausage, Bean and Kale Soup, or find myself with too many zucchini so that I have to make both chocolate zucchini bread and my Sausage Zucchini Bake.

This year my goal is to ask better questions about growing practices to find the produce with fewer chemicals, and I’ll use Amy’s tips for getting the most out of the Farmer’s Market every Friday when I do my very favorite kind of shopping, with my reusable bags, cash, and children in tow.

What questions do you ask your farmers?

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About Katie Kimball

An at-home mom who is passionate about food, her two kids, the good green Earth and her faith, Katie Kimball blogs about all that and more at Kitchen Stewardship.

Comments

  1. I love this post!

    Our market season is already going ahead on Vancouver Island, BC and the produce is lovely to see! You just can’t beat local freshness either and I have met so many wonderful people at the market too. I think it’s a great experience for kids too. Helps make a closer connection to just where all our food comes from.
    .-= Steph’s last blog: =-.

  2. Stephanie P says:

    Love it! I’ve yet to get out to the market this year (shame on me!) and this provided that extra nudge :-)

  3. I too feel like the farmers market is like sensory food. The sounds of people, the colors, the smells of herbs and fresh veggies, and the taste of great cheeses and fruits are all things we don’t get in a grocery store full of noisy shopping carts. We love our farmers market adventures!
    I did read however on the county website that not all farms who sell at our markets are organic. So you have to ask. Just another reason to start a conversation with your favorite grower.
    You know about the menu inspiration…I really like to have a planned menu at the beginning of the week and then shop for the ingredients I need. This summer I’ve committed myself to write about “discovering delicious.” There are so many wonderful veggies and fruits out there I have been just shy about trying to prepare. I want to reach outside of my culinary comfort zone and try new things, learn to prepare new dishes, and expand our family’s palate a bit. This week, I picked up some ramps and came home to make Gluten Free Ramp and Buttermilk Biscuits. I am kind of excited, and kind of intimidated to discover our next delicious mystery!
    This is a great post. Thanks for the wonderful farmers market tips!

  4. I completely identify with this. Our farmers’ market opened for the season last weekend, and I was as excited as I would have been to visit old, dear friends. Then I realized that’s pretty much exactly what was going on.
    .-= Carolyn’s last blog: The Crisper Whisperer on Serious Eats: 10 Secrets for Making the Most of Your CSA =-.

  5. This post made me so nostalgic for my old community farmers market — perhaps because it’s pictured in the photo by Marc Smith!
    Yes, that gorgeous market nestled under the snow-capped mountain is in beautiful British Columbia, where I grew up. Talk about bringing back memories!

    Great post. Love the statement about more conversations happening at the market than at the grocery store. How true. That market pictured above has such a social scene!
    .-= Aimee @ Simple Bites’s last blog: DIY Granola Bars =-.

  6. I love this post almost as much as I love the farmer’s market.

    Our farmer’s market opened last weekend and it was great to see our friends — how big some of their kids have grown, show them how big my daughter has gotten. We talked about what we ate that winter and what we were excited for this summer and who was participating in the CSA. We trade recipes and celebrate things going on in life.

    fresh, tasty produce is so much more fun to buy and tastes so much better that tomatoes flown in from Argentina…

  7. When it comes to chicken and eggs, I ask the farmer what their chickens are fed, if they are truly pastured or fed. If they supplement their chickens with soy, I pass them up.

  8. I love this post!!! I am so with you, there is nothing like shopping in a real market where you are inspired by colors and every one wants to try something new – the awe and wonder… Then there is the supermarket where everything is mass produced, uniform and bleh!!! There is no comparison!!!
    .-= se7en’s last blog: The Week that Was – 2.45 =-.

  9. This post makes me want to go to a farmers market so badly!

  10. I am lucky enough to go to a year round farmers market. I live in Minneapolis, so during the winter, it’s primarily meat farmers and bread bakers there. What’s great about the year round market is things slow down during the cooler/colder weather and you actually have a chance to really talk to your vendors. I started asking my meat farmer simple questions, like how she raises her cows and chickens and how are they processed. As I continued to regularly see her (I would get meat from her every week) and ask her questions, she started to recognize me. Before long she knew me and would save for me some of my favorite items, like chicken hearts, liver and necks (these items all sold out fast). Plus, now each time I see her she has some great information to share with me. I’ve learned some great healthy eating tips (she follows Weston Price) and some great ways to prepare grass-fed meat. It’s awesome! :-)

    My most recent blog post is on preparing chicken liver and heart: http://artistta.blogspot.com/2010/05/chicken-hearts-and-liver-they-really.html

  11. Fromagette says:

    Our market starts in less than a month. I sure am excited!

    Try adding a parmesan cheese rind when you simmer your bean, sausage, and kale soup. Absolutely delicious!

  12. I love our local Fulton Street Farmers Market! It is my favorite place to be on a Saturday morning, with all the folks milling around, talking to the vendors, meeting and making new friends. The Fulton Market is where I first met the owners of our local CSA 5 years ago, and I was hooked. The following spring I became a member and this will be my 4th year. Even tho I now get most of my veggies from our CSA, I am still a regular at the market, for fruit and bulk produce for canning and preserving. LOVE it!

    • Cindy,
      Lovely! You must be in GR, eh? I am putting together a local resources page at Kitchen Stewardship, so if you have any farmers, etc. that I should include, dash me an email. Thanks!

      Saturday overwhelms me at the Fulton Market. I much prefer a weekday when I have a little more space to wander around.
      :) Katie

      • Actually, Katie, I am in Allendale, so it is a bit of a drive for me to get to the Fulton Market. Obviously, my favorite vendor at the market would be Trillium haven Farms, where I have been a member of their CSA for now my 4th year.
        Not at the market, but very good friends of ours, is Maple Valley Farms in Coral, MI. Angie and Matt Kuncaitis live on an off-grid 40 acre farm with their 6 kids, and have 100% grassfed beef available (very reasonable…about $2.88 #, and that is the finished price), along with farm fresh eggs, broiler chickens, and have a few milk shares left. Too far for me to go for weekly milk, but for someone in the area it would be a good deal.
        I know what you mean about the market on Saturdays! Going during the week tho means not all the vendors are there. Many only go on Saturdays. At least my kids are all grown and I don’t have to push a stroller thru there!
        .-= Cindy (FarmgirlCyn)’s last blog: Thunder & Lightning & Rain, Oh My! =-.

        • Cindy,
          I think we just got maple syrup from them! That is an amazing price for beef; is it available by the pound or just 1/4 or 1/2 cow? It might be worth a trip for many pounds of beef! Thanks!
          :) Katie

          • Katie…Right now it is available as 1/4, 1/2, or whole. Mine will be ready today or first of next week. Eventually they would like to sell by the #, but that would mean getting a huge propane(?) freezer, as they live off grid. Mine is a fairly small 1/4, finished weight around 120#. Typically it would be around 150#. Not too bad, if you wanted to split 1/4 with a friend. The other good thing is Matt has you get 1/8 of a front and 1/8 of a rear quarter…that way you get a bigger variety of meat. He gets it cut at Jones Meats in Saranac, and he also has them hang it for 14 days to dry out, THEN he has it weighed. Good for the customer.
            Yes, they do sell maple syrup they got off their own land, so it is likely you got some from them. She also is a WAPF leader along with her daughter Abbie, and has monthly classes at their farm.
            You can contact them at 566-8481….they can give you all the details. I’m just passing on what I know fro personal experience!

            Cindy
            .-= Cindy (FarmgirlCyn)’s last blog: Thunder & Lightning & Rain, Oh My! =-.

  13. I’m in Michigan too – and the farmer’s market has just opened this month. I haven’t been there yet, but I’m excited to start shopping there soon! Of course, at this time of year, most of their produce is stuff they’ve brought from other farms, but it’s fresher than the grocey store produce!
    .-= Tammy’s last blog: ~A sweet and sticky, oily, soapy mess!~ =-.

  14. I am in envy of all you who have up-and-running already, or even year ’round, farmer’s markets. Having grown up in and around Seattle I was spoiled early on by the Pike Place Market and the sights, smells and even sounds are permanently etched in my memory. These days small-town Alaska is my home and while the Anchorage market has started up, I am still waiting for our (tiny) local market to start. One question I like to ask the vendors is “What’s coming up?”… gives me something to look forward to and maybe even gets me to a market day I might have skipped otherwise. Fat, juicy tomatoes, aromatic basil and Lacinato kale are my favorites these days… really miss tree-ripened peaches and fresh corn-on-the-cob!

  15. Our market has been going already for a little over a month, and unfortunately I’ve only been one weekend. It’s expanded considerably, which is great!

    At the beginning of the season, I always ask how last season went. We’ve had fairly bad drought conditions here, so I ask whether the farm was badly hit by the conditions. If it’s a farmer I’ve not met before, I ask where they’re located and how far they come to market; I also ask how long they’ve been farming, whether they grew up in the area … Basically, all the getting to know you questions.

    When the produce or product I’ve purchased from a particular stand is wonderful, I make sure that I stop back by that stand the next time I’m at market to let the producer know how good it was and how I prepared it. “Those tomatoes were so good! They made the most delicious sandwiches/pasta sauce/salsa.” And, I ask what other items they’ll have at market in the future.
    .-= Trina’s last blog: Our Favorite Shrimp Tacos =-.

  16. I am looking forward to visiting our Farmers Market this year! I only started going a little bit last year…This year it will be a major source of our food! I just bought grass-fed meat for the first time at my health food store yesterday! I can’t wait to try some from our market! Also, I homeschool, so I am very much looking forward to the learning opportunity!

  17. I’ve always had a joy rush when shopping at the farmer’s market for many of the same reasons you mentioned. It makes the grocery store feel so soulless by comparison! Lately it hasn’t fit into our schedule and driving constraints, but we’ve enjoyed the second best: getting a weekly “mystery box” of produce from local farmers. It’s forced me to branch out in my veggie repertoire, which I sorely needed!
    .-= Hannah’s last blog: This Wasn’t Supposed to Be About Bacon =-.

  18. It was the middle of the summer in Phoenix and my husband and I were at our local farmers’ market. While pursuing the piles and piles of zucchini and okra I stumbled upon some broccoli. “Broccoli?!” I screeched. Being a gardener myself, I know that broccoli is a cool season crop and July was definitely not the cool season in the desert. I tracked down the farmer and asked him, “How do you have broccoli in the summer?!” I feared the answer would be that he has it trucked in from the other side of the country or they are mutant, pesticide-laden broccoli designed to grow in the Arizona desert. The farmer chuckled and told me that he lives a couple of hours to the north where the weather is drastically cooler and that’s why he still had broccoli growing. I felt a little embarrassed for getting so worked up about the broccoli, but I was glad that I asked.

  19. I live in GR, MI as well! The fulton street farmers market has been open for 2 saturdays and I went both times. This is the first year I am going to a farmers market and oh am I glad i found it! I will be going this Saturday to load up on some meat and will buy the produce they have. Last week there was not much… but I guess fresh picked asparagus is all you need!
    .-= Primal Toad’s last blog: Happy 22nd Birthday to Me! Being Primal Makes This One Extra Special =-.

  20. Our markets are finally open; I love that we have such a great relationship at our “local” market that they know my kids. It has such a small town atmosphere to it!
    .-= Robbie @ Going green mama’s last blog: Spring in the eyes of a 4 year old (a photographic essay) =-.

  21. I adore my local farmer’s markets, and am sad that the season is just about to end here in South Florida. Great post!
    .-= Hannah’s last blog: Roadtrip =-.

  22. I SO wish this was the case with our farmers’ market, but for some reason it’s more like a fair/carnival atmosphere–complete with funnel cakes (and I’m not even joking!).

    We’re looking forward to our organic CSA starting soon, though.
    .-= Simple Homeschool ~ Jamie’s last blog: Involving Dad in Your Homeschool =-.

  23. Fantastic post, Katie! I’m so glad that it is almost Market season here, too :-)

    Good point about being able to show kids about money, too. Not only using real money (and not plastic) but about letting them put a face to where the money is going. i.e. – we’re buying asparagus from this farmer whose family we see right here before us as their booth at the Farmer’s Market. We can see directly where our money is going, instead of just handing over money at the register of a big box store and not being able to follow the complicated money trail until it gets back to the actual producer of the food.

    We get weekly food delivered (Farm Fresh delivery, for any Indy/Cincy folks who read this) but we like to get out to the Farmer’s Markets, too. You’re right: what a feast for the senses – and our hearts! :-)

  24. Great article. You are right, these are all wonderful things about Farmers Markets– I am especially fond of the community aspect. Chatting with the farmers and the other patrons makes the experience so much better. Like shopping on Main St. used to be long before I was around.
    .-= Tori {Daily Grommet}’s last blog: Author Interview: Brad Meltzer on Heroes for My Son =-.

  25. I’m also in love with the Farmer’s Market. It is truly a community gathering in my neck of the woods. Plus, the prices are the absolute best that one can find, which is a real consideration when you live on an island where most conventional foods are flown in and offered at a higher cost. Thanks very much for celebrating the benefits of the Farmer’s Market.
    .-= Sandra Lee’s last blog: Healthy twig tea =-.

  26. Great post as always Katie. We enjoy asking our farmer about all of the animals and bugs that come along with living on a farm. The kids just eat it up. And I love the feeling of getting back to my own family’s (surname Farmer) roots.

    Hope you get your hands on some kale soon!
    .-= Eren’s last blog: Strawberry Season and a Winner =-.

  27. I love my local farmers market:) This year they’ve even decided to open Tuesday evening hours in addition to their Saturday morning hours…perfect for families on the go like mine!

    And don’t forget to plan ahead for the long winter days without our market friends…learn how to preserve your foods in ways that make sense for you…you can dry, freeze, can or pickle most of your favorites to enjoy the year through. I use a reference book called “So Easy to Preserve” for all my preservation needs…it’s a great resource.

    Great article, thanks! I’m with you on the cash thing, too…makes for better budgeting:)

  28. Ha ha … I just wrote a post about how much I HATE shopping! http://bit.ly/a1C3hY

    I do love farmer’s markets, though. It’s nice to congregate in a place where I won’t be mocked for worrying about MSG and the toxic effects of microwaves :)

  29. I received 1 st mortgage loans when I was a teenager and it aided my family very much. However, I require the bank loan once more time.

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  1. [...] 6 good reasons to use a farmers’ market from Simple Organic. [...]

  2. [...] I guess I was expecting to see rustic wooden baskets overflowing with bright green lettuce, and juicy strawberries, and ripe zucchini. I was expecting something that looked like the pictures here or here or here. [...]

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