I have to set a limit in the amount of money I allow myself to spend at the Farmers' Market or I could end up with insufficient funds for the rest of my shopping. There is something so satisfying about purchasing food from the producer. Not only can I be confident that I am supporting local people and businesses, but I also can talk to the purveyors about their wares. Generally they are most engaged in their wares. This past weekend I enjoyed conversations with the Mushroom Man, who made me promise that I would eat the coral mushrooms he sold me that night and gave me directions on their preparation, and the Honey Lady, who encouraged me to pursue my goal of establishing a bee hive in my backyard. In the course of my conversation with the Honey Lady two other beekeepers materialized and we all talked about our favorite invertebrates for several minutes. It was a connection with my community that just does not occur at the national chain grocery store and I relished it.
My children love trips to the Farmers' Market, and I like to think that it is not only because of the honey sticks that they get at the end of the trip. I hope that our conversations with the producers of their food make an impression on them, that they realize that food does not just magically materialize in sterile plastic. I hope that they learn to enjoy the music in the air, the fragrant fresh breads and flowers, and the conversations. I hope that the little details of color and texture and sound find their way into the permanent folds of their memories and they feel drawn to the source of their food when they are grown up and making their own dinners.
This is a community drawn together by food. Food is an elemental and a critical element of our survival. The patrons and sellers are most likely unagreed on political and religious opinions, but here the frenzied angst for those whose opinions differ from one's own, which is so pervasive in many forums, is suspended. We can get beyond all of that and just see one another as fellow human beings who need to eat and want to support their community.
I am thankful that my community (Spokane) supports several farmers markets and a public market. It is a mark of good things here.
© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012