The Joy of Farmers Markets
Whenever I’ve moved, I’ve always made it a high priority to find the great sources of local produce. I remember learning of the local farmers market in the southern town of my first ministry: I was told that it was held on Saturday morning in Jackson Square. The person who told me about this market waxed eloquent about how wonderful it was. My first Saturday in that town, I got up, had a leisurely breakfast, and set out for the market. It took me a while to find Jackson Square, so I got there around 9:30 or 10, and I couldn’t understand what was so wonderful about this market. Few vendors, paltry displays of produce. When I commented on that, I was urged to give it another try – at 7 AM when it opened, or even a bit earlier, as they didn’t always wait for the opening bell.
Sure enough, it was a different experience early in the morning. Half the town would be there, and the produce was indeed plentiful and wonderful. I could have given my sermon there and served most of the congregation. I made lots of other friends at the market over the years, and folks like the Herb Lady would always set aside what they knew I liked. Later, when a coffee shop (The Daily Grind) opened across the street, the ritual would be to get to the farmers market early and then find a table with friends at the packed coffee house. Ah, those memories! Saturday mornings in the ‘off season’ (Thanksgiving through Memorial Day) paled in comparison to those wonderful summer and fall Saturday mornings.
There were other markets and other rituals in other cities. Sadly, there were no farmers markets that you could rely upon to sell local produce in my last city – I think all of the produce would wilt in the tremendous heat of the southern plains by Memorial Day anyhow. So I was happy to find many farmers markets in my new locale. However, I have found that they are spotty – the one in my city is on a Thursday and has maybe 5 or 6 vendors, some of whom sell candles or jams. Not a large variety of produce. But I found the mother lode in a neighboring town. Lots of vendors selling all kinds of freshly grown stuff, in addition to the natural meat and egg folks, artisanal organic cheeses, freshly made peanut butter and homemade challah. Woo hoo!!
This market operates on Wednesday afternoons in addition to Saturday mornings. Yesterday I decided to see what it was like mid-week. It was almost as spectacular as Saturday. I picked up fresh broccoli, kale, and salad greens. Sunflower sprouts. Herbs. Black raspberries that are the food of gods! Baby yellow squash, zucchini, and snow peas for my Quorn stir fry. Some of that homemade challah. Oh, and the most beautiful flower bouquet that graces my antique pink vase.
Overheard at one of the crowded booths (this neighboring town is a prime tourist spot): So when are we going to move up here? I felt so lucky at that moment. Here it was, a perfect day – not too hot, not too humid, sunny and just right. Here I was, in my glory at a wonderfully abundant farmers market, stuffing those wonderful veggies and fruit in my string bag. Life is good in the summertime when the grace of harvest is shared at the market; where the bounty is imported at most from the next county; where the freshness overcomes all of the senses; and the nourishment of our bodies rises to new levels.
For sustainable living, the only thing that beats this is growing your own. But then you don’t have the community aspect, unless you grow your own in a community garden or invite lots of people to share in your bounty.
I will savor this market for months to come. I will nourish my body well and know that I am adding to the local economy as well as not relying upon vitamin-depleted produce that’s trucked/shipped/flown in from the far corners of the earth. I will count these market experiences as spiritual practice. What a blessing!