Long blog post title.
Anyways, I think if you follow me at all, you know i love my weekly (sometimes twice-weekly) visit to the various farmer’s markets around the city. It’s one of the great benefits of having moved to Southern California, that I am able to partake in outdoor markets all year round. In Toronto I was fortunate enough to have The Stop at the Wychwood Barns off of St. Claire that ran an all-year long farmer’s market, as well as the Davisville Farmer’s Markets in the summery months, on Mt. Pleasant, but here there are multiple markets all week, in various parts of the city with varying locals and artisans as well as farmers and stalls.
Now, as the title may suggest, I am not a firm believer in the “organic” way of life. I don’t buy organic milk, eggs, bread or whatever else unless it catches my eye or otherwise convinces me to have at it. The bananas at Trader Joe’s without the organic sticker suit me just fine thank you, especially after I read a study that seemed to suggest that the organic-ness of a product was far less important to your overall health than just eating lots of fruits and veggies.
I was always somewhat lucky: My dad grew up on a farm and my mother loved gardening – we always had fruits and veggies. In our first little home, we had a mini orchard in the back with a sprawling (little) veggie garden along the fence line. When I was five my parents, probably because neither of their two daughters knew anything about cows and other rural things, decided to buy a plot of land in country, near the lake, the forests and good farm folk. Funnily enough, now Prince Edward County is pockmarked with vineyards and artists – an amazing difference from the fields of apple trees and pastures of cows from my childhood.
The one thing that has stayed the same, however, was the produce and such.
Markets in nearby Belleville, Picton and farm stands all between fueled my childhood. My Mother would stop by each stand, inspect the produce, weight the prices and handle the eggs and walk out with a bag or two of yummy food, and a chat or two with local farmers. My Father would walk from stall to stall, eating samples, making jokes and forcing my mother to buy things she never considered because my dad had tried something unbelievable – like flax seed, or guavas, or an entire baby fig tree. I think I take after both of them, little by little.
As I started buying my own produce and milk, and eggs, and taking care of my own little household, I found myself very often driving to markets and looking forward to faires and stands and such. The Love of my Life, a man who balks at the price tags on such items (ex. “Seriously? They want $3 for a soft avocado!? Is that normal?”) is less enamored with farmer’s markets and the like, so I usually go by myself, though he did go with me last week, happy to let me talk and move around while he carried bags. Ah, la vie.
However, the reason I continue to go and buy some items from markets and the like is not because of the organic nature of many of the products, but rather the communal nature of the entire institution: I like being able to chat with farmers, artisans and the like. I enjoy hearing their stories, their belief systems and the reasons they went into a particular branch of farming or bread making. It reminds me that there is still good in the world – that sometimes people can enjoy the simple wholesome things in life without taking an alternate meaning from it, and that people actually care for one another.
When I share smiles with the berry farmer from southern California, or the salad harvesters from near Indio, I feel like I am a part of a wider community that embraces and is in turn embraced, by the need and love of food. There are young people, too – people my age, younger even, who hold up baskets of rye bread and bundles of freshly picked flowers. And older people – people’s grandparents with trays of cut oranges, fat juicy strawberries and wedges of ripe red tomatoes. It’s ageless, even. Kids will run around, their faces smudged with chocolate and lips rimmed with watermelon juice.
It brings me back to a time when I was one of those children.
And it takes me to the future, where – with any luck – I will be one of those older women bustling along with a bouquet of flowers wrapped in newspaper and a shopping tote full of fruit and veggies for home.
I wholly encourage everyone to get out and visit your local farmer’s markets if you can – it’s a community experience, a delightful exercise in being local and appreciative of the work that farmers and artisans put into their wares. And it is a reminder that communities are still that nugget of family that holds us all together.
See you down by the stalls!