Monday, October 08, 2012

Shopping with Purpose::The Farmers Market

Boiled down and simplified, each time we shop with purpose we are reminded that people matter.  This earth.  It matters.  With each dollar we spend, we're invited to connect with people and remember the art and skill involved in farming and creating.  I don't know about you, but when I walk through a mall or a supermarket, I am tempted to forget about the people behind the products in my hand.  The florescent lighting, the cardboard displays, and the sales gimmicks irritate me and dare I say it - confuse me.  Somehow the calloused hands and creative minds behind the items I'm purchasing are lost.  Forgotten. Perhaps this is why a visit to the grocery store is less of a celebration and more of a joyless inconvenience.

I'm convinced the more we separate from people the more lifeless and uninspired we become.  Shopping with purpose is an invitation to reconnect and reclaim.  It's an opportunity to celebrate life - the process of feeding and fueling our bodies, clothing ourselves, and caring for this earth and one another.

We have a farmers market in our town every Saturday.  When I can, I load up the kids and head out to buy eggs and produce for the week.  There's also a family owned and operated produce stand a few miles from our house.  I still go to the grocery store, but I've tried to make a habit of buying my produce from the farmer's market or locally owned produce stand near our house.  This is where I have to tell my all or nothing personality to shove off.  I can't always go to the farmers market - but I usually can.  When I can't - that's okay.  Any time we choose to support local farmers, we make a difference in the lives of real people.  Here are some things I've noticed as I've tried to reconnect with the people behind our food.

1.  It's not more expensive.  I thought it would be.  I was wrong.  At the same time I was learning to shop at the farmers market and our local produce stand, I also started trying to figure out what it means to eat seasonally.  Seasonal eating is a new world for me.  I guess I had never thought about it really.  I mean, my local supermarket sells all fruits and vegetables all year.  Sure, sometimes the apples are a little mushy or the mangoes are smaller, but I've never stopped by my local grocery store and not been able to buy whatever fruits or vegetables I wanted.  Always being able to buy whatever I wanted sounded great - until we started growing our own garden and I realized how weird it was that the grocery store still had piles of cherry tomatoes in the middle of the winter when our tomatoes were long gone.  When I began reading about seasonal eating I learned an interesting fact.  Depending on where we live, our bodies require different vitamins and minerals at different parts of the year.  Fascinating.  There's a reason only certain vegetables grow in the dead of winter - our bodies need them during the winter.

I don't have this seasonal eating idea mastered, but I'm learning.  If I buy seasonal veggies from the farmers market or our local farm stand, I don't pay any more than I would at the grocery store.  I guess, when I think about how much the grocery store pays to ship non-seasonal foods to the store, it makes sense that locally produced, seasonal produce can definitely compete financially in the marketplace.

Here are some terrific resources for eating seasonally:

A great starter for seasonal recipes.

I love this list of seasonal produce from Whole 9.  (I use the chart and then go to Pinterest and type in "butternut squash recipes."  Wah-lah.  Dinner.

Another great seasonal guide from BBC.

"By shopping at a farmers market, you support local agriculture, which has many benefits. You keep farmers in your community. You keep land from being sprawled with houses and shopping centers. You have the experience of shopping in the farmers market, which is the new public square. You support a lot of values when you shop at the farmers market." -- Michael Pollan

2.  When you begin to shop at Farmers Markets, you get to know the people who grow your food.  This is weird at first, and I didn't really like it.  It's growing on me.  Most days I love the old man at our local farm stand who insists on telling my boys jokes and giving them each a banana.  But some days I'm late and in a hurry, so I wish he'd just shut up and give me my dang bananas.  I kind of hate him on those days.  Sad but true story.

3.  Seasonal produce tastes better.  Well, duh.  I should have seen this coming, but I didn't.  Obviously if it's in season, the flavor is more vibrant.  If you've never eaten butternut squash in October or November, you haven't lived.

"I don’t cringe over a fifty-dollar bag of organic and local groceries because that’s the actual cost of producing food in a healthy world.  That same bag at Safeway is cheap because the costs to the environment – of pesticides, soil erosion, cultural erosion, and genetic modification of life forms – are not included in the price.  Can we look beyond the sticker price to see the true cost of our goods, and our economy?" -- William Powers in 12x12

4.  A visit to the farmers market resets my definition of real food.  Maybe I'm a dummy, but I forget, swimming through aisles of cardboard boxes and fancy packaging that a lot of what sits on the grocery store shelf is not real food.  Making the farmers market a habit keeps me focused and grounded when I'm in the grocery store.  If I am consistently stopping by the farmers market we eat healthier - even if what I brought home didn't come from the farmers market.  This is weird, but true.

5.  My kids are more likely to branch out and try new foods.  They beg me to buy items like basil and eggplant.  I'm always doubtful.  "If I buy this, you're really going to eat it?"  Yep.  In this way the farmers market is magic.

6.  Buying our food directly from families in our area reminds me of a few truths I had plum forgotten.  Farming is an art.  Farmers who care about our earth, their animals, and who take pride in providing food for our country are a dying breed.  I bet very few of us know actual-real-life farmers.  People whose entire livelihoods depend almost entirely on elements outside of their control. I'm convinced very few people know faith like a farmer.  Farmers no longer sit in our churches.  They don't live down the road.  They aren't there to shed meaning on the many, many Bible passages filled with agricultural and farming references.  They aren't there to remind us that growth takes time.  Seasons change. The sun always comes up.  A seed holds a promise.  New life pops up in the darndest of places.  They aren't there to remind us that life ends - and sometimes it ends abruptly.  I believe when we lost the farmer, we lost something rich and immeasurable in our communities.  I don't know about you, but I want to keep the ones we have left.

7.  Going to the Farmers Market makes me happy.  I don't know all the reasons why, but it does - so I go.

Do you have a farmers market in your area?  Do you visit it?  When you do, what are your observations?  Did I miss anything?


Jenni said...

Love this, thanks Heather! I've been interested in learning more about eating seasonally so I'll have to read through those links you posted.

nattles said...

I love the farmers market too! there is a sense of community, as you've said. Especially when you go frequently and get to know the faces growing your food. I've been lax about going since having baby #2, but this is good encouragment to make it happen and show our kids where food really comes from and who is really growing it (not HEB:).!

5 Chicks and a Farmer said...

this is beautiful! love it so much for many many reasons.

Thee FireWife said...

I try to go to our local fruit stand before the grocery store. A lot of times, the prices beat the chain stores, so everyone wins. Plus, they always have Honey Crisp Apples. Which are the best apples ever. Amen.