As a kid, I never understood the value of a Farmers Market. I enjoyed the rides all over the place, down back roads and onto dirt roads, but I never understood why we had to go out of our way to get vegetables when there were perfectly good ones in the grocery store.
Was I ever so young?
I picked up a Farmers Almanac a couple months ago and realized that I actually had very little understanding of when what is in season. Going in a grocery store is like having an on-demand farm in your neighborhood. Why wait for nature when it’s ALL available ALL THE TIME?! I’ve always let my recipes dictate what I cooked, but why not let nature have a say as well? After all, she is the ultimate supplier.
Since about February of this year, I have been chomping at the bit to get to a Farmers Market. As I explained in my “About” page, I spent last semester teaching a writing course entitled “Food Culture in America.” With my background knowledge, course readings, and fantastic research my students contributed, I left the class with many new insights into how to eat well and how to avoid less-than-stellar foods. One of the absolute coolest things about that class was that most of my students were international. My students from Italy and France were particularly enlightening as they reacted to seeing grocery stores for the first time. “Isn’t food supposed to be dirty when you get it?” “Shouldn’t it come from local farms?”
Well, yes. Yes, it should.
Enter the Old Towne Petersburg Farmers Market: a weekly coming-together of local farms and vendors, situated right under the MLK Jr. bridge. How cool is that?!
Mom and I went a few weekends ago, and let me just say: I wanted to buy everything. I was distracted by the enormous basil plants when I first walked in, but soon remembered my little kitchen herb garden (more about that later!) and moved on. There were meats, plants, homemade soaps, and produce, produce, produce.
And to top it off, there was Bluegrass!
It was such a fun, festive event, and it happens every Saturday morning, so if you’re in the area, please stop by! I picked up a few summer squash and zucchini (my favorite steamed veggies), some homemade bread from the Gourmet Briar Patch tea room, and some homemade oatmeal soap. Pretty good for a weekend shopping spree, huh? But I must say, the best part of the morning for me was seeing this:
Well, thank goodness. Meat has always been the trickiest thing for me – where do you get it? How do you know if the “organic” stuff in the grocery store is really better? At a Farmers Market, you’ll likely see signs like this – and you’ll definitely get to talk to the farmers themselves – no middleman, no corporation. Just good food.
So here’s what you should know: local and in-season produce is healthier and better. You get foods that were grown naturally on a smaller scale without genetic tinkering and without the extreme pesticides of larger places, by farmers who care about the quality of their food. Farmers markets are reliable, offer variety, and are fun! And best of all, you get to support local businesses – there is no down-side.
So get out there and find your local markets this summer! You’ll be glad you did!
Happy 4th, everyone!