Saturday, July 3, 2010

Farmer's Markets are Not Just a Place to Shop

If you have a Farmers Market in your area, do not miss out on this experience. They are all too soon closed for the season and we're forced back into the antiseptic aisles of megastores for the tasteless items trucked in thousands of miles and sprayed with hormones for artificial ripening and then laughingly referred to as "produce." But for a brief interlude we are the fortunate few who can savor the real produce of our land. Real produce is that which is planted in soil with love, carefully watched over and guarded with ferocity, and harvested with pride and a sense of accomplishment to be shared with those who are not as fortunate as we are to have the honor of working our land.

As we embark on our first-ever season as vendors of two local farmers markets (Court Square in Covington and Collierville Farmers Market in Collierville), we expected to meet other small farmers and people interested in a more sustainable way of life. But what we did not expect was the number of people who stand at our booth for long periods of time talking with us. I can always tell when someone is about to tell me a story or share a recipe. The face goes slack and relaxed, the eyes twinkle a bit, and the corners of the mouth curl up in a half smile. Often an index finger points to me as they begin the ritual of "the story." It begins with a statement like:

"My grandmother used to have chickens, and the way she kept critters out was..."


"I used to see those kinds of cucumbers in my Nanny's place, but haven't seen them in years!"


"You know what I like to do with this squash? I like to slice it thin, toss it up with a little olive oil..."

THAT is why I keep going to the Farmers Markets, and that is why I do this work.

I wish I could effectively write about how profoundly this experience has affected me and the way I wish to continue to live my life and do my work. But to even attempt to do so would be like trying to describe the taste of Mrs. Sarah Walton's blueberries after she and her husband planted several bushes together over 25 years ago in a brave experiment just to see what would happen. How do you describe such a miracle in typeface? You don't. You just count yourself blessed to be one of the few people on this earth who has the good fortune to be able to say "I know exactly what they taste like because I just picked a gallon of them and when I popped a few in my mouth they were still warm from the sun and tasting of jonquils."

Do I make a huge profit doing this kind of work? Well, it depends on your definition of profit, doesn't it? If you are asking if I can take a world cruise each February off of my earnings, then no I do not make a huge profit. In fact, this first year I will be lucky to break even. But if by profit you mean that which I gain from hearing these precious memories long pushed into the back of a person's mind and soaking up practical knowledge passed down from generation to generation and not found in any text, then I am the richest person alive.