Yes. Some of us at work are dropping mention of this or that farmers’ market, or getting their produce from a CSA somewhere. The company is even allowing for the arrangement of periodic farm stands during lunches every few weeks, out in the parking lot this year. No one ever talked about this stuff last year. My mentions of farmers markets then were greeted mostly by, “Oh, yes, I’ve driven past that one.”
I’ve been heavily patronizing farmers markets since 2009 – there are of course the environmental advantages of not trucking your produce from all around the world, or from places out west that could really use the water for other purposes. I’m not a diehard purist: I still eat avocados and grapefruit and artichokes, which simply don’t grow around here, and I’m not going to turn up my nose at what I’m served, unless it’s, say, cottage cheese (texturally just so wrong) or fiddlehead ferns (severely allergic). I also have far too strong an international taste palate.
Barbara Kingsolver and family wrote an excellent book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, on just this topic of going local as much as possible. They experimented for a year, and decided to continue with that diet plan. Or, should I say, lifestyle plan.
There are other advantages: Food tastes better (well it has been a long established fact that supermarket tomatoes, frankly, suck). Food lasts longer since it hasn’t been sitting around before getting to the supermarket shelf. And if you do run into, say, tainted local spinach, it’s gonna stay local, not hit people in nearly every state of the union. It’s also less likely because local small farmers don’t do that intensive stuff that can run bigger agribiz butt up (literally) into E. coli. You also find yourself getting more in touch with the land, with nature, the cycle of seasons, life itself. You begin to understand something of the sometimes-tenuous fragility of nature’s balance, and you begin to wonder how some people so totally close themselves off to the reality of climate change. My raspberries are showing up earlier each year. Something about their climate is changing, and if it were only here, that would be one thing.
I’d grow more of my own produce, making this more a locavore operation, but too much shade. I just know I’m not ever going to buy raspberries as long as I can grow some of my own, even though I can only pick them in July. I froze up tomato sauce last summer, farmers market produce, some basil from my garden. I’d like to can tomatoes if I can find or hobble together the equipment to do it right. (Add a touch of vinegar or lemon to the tomatoes if you stovetop can, keep them acid. Don’t add meats or non-acidic veggies. There’s a trade off between freezing sauces and canning sauces. Freezing you can put together anything you want, but space gets limited fast.)
Some brief reviews of a few farmers markets follow.
Bethel Farmers’ Market, Connecticut: Saturdays 9-12.
I discovered this one last year but it has been around for years. Someone informed me that it has gone downhill over the last few years, with fewer vendors. I think this must be reflective not of demand, but of farmers. We are losing small independent farmers here in Connecticut. However, they have a variety of things and three good produce vendors who overlap in some but certainly not all of what they carry. One vendor has excellent corn and large beans such as limas, another carries apples and other produce, and one very friendly chap focuses in on greens and root veggies. They all have lots of tomatoes. Occasionally there is a bread vendor with superb choices in loaves. (Review based on 2009 as I haven’t gotten there yet this year.)
New Milford Farmer’s Market, Connecticut: Saturdays 9-12.
I’d say there are also three very prolific produce vendors. This year to date lots of allium-family produce, strawberries, raspberries, greens, root veggies. Snap and sugar peas. They also carry beef, pork and chicken, and I’ve bought the pork. Since both New Milford and Bethel are in opposite directions of my home, I pick one or the other to visit, and I just haven’t yet swung by the Bethel one yet this year. But they tend to have the far better tomatoes and beans so I have to get there soon. (New Milford review based on 2009-2010.)
Litchfield Farmers Market, Connecticut: Saturdays 10 – 1.
NOW we’re talking. I’ve only gotten here once so far, but man, I couldn’t count the good produce vendors. One stand especially was huge. I finally met kohlrabi in full fettle, looks like a space-alien veggie. They had purple and green, all leafed out and fresh. I wish I lived closer to this market, but as long as I’m on my way to Massachusetts, I may as well bring along a cooler. There is also a pasture-grazed meat vendor, from whom I purchased the best chicken since the one I bought at Joel Salatin’s place. Excellent bread vendor, too (but I’d already stopped at their store in Bantam on my way up Route 202). There are things for kids to do, and a couple of “musicians” who were either just warming up or just not very good. Some guy made pizzas in a wood-fired oven off the back of his trailer, and the scent was incredibly desirable. (Review based on one visit 2010.)
Broadway Farmers Market, Virginia: Saturdays.
VIRGINIA? What’s local about Virginia??? Well, for one, Dad lives there. On a farm with Nancy.
The whole Blue Ridge Mountain area is prime for farm country. Unfortunately a lot of it is Tyson factory farms (Nancy calls them “concentration camps for chickens”), but enough real independents are available to keep even a small town’s farmers market alive and active. Being that my visit was early in the season, not much was yet available, but you could tell it was about to blossom in future weeks. Overall, prices were better than in Connecticut, but I think it’s a cost of living thing. (Comments based on one visit, 2010.)
Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market, Virginia: Saturdays.
Oh, say six or so really good produce stands. Bread, as well. Very active and thriving. It is where I discovered that lima beans can actually be good. (Comments based on a couple visits in 2009, and probably even one back in 2008.)
I’m expecting to revisit the Litchfield Farmer’s Market next Saturday, and will drop into the Otis Farmers’ Market in Massachusetts afterwards. Nice to have a route on a trip I’m making anyway that takes one by so many of these places.