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
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
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
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.”
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?