What a pleasure it is to be starting another season at Worthington’s Summer Farmers Market. This May opens our fifth summer. Our first year we were so nervous and insecure. We didn’t know anybody and had never done a market. We had no idea what to expect. Since then, the market has become our home—the public’s enthusiastic support a bracing input for our farm. Now we are happy to see longtime customers (and their children (and their dogs)) again, as well as the shining faces of new customers just discovering the energy and diversity of the market.
Hello again, U.S. Bank building, keeping us in its shade till (as if by magic) almost exactly noon, when it is time to pack up and go. Hello, green plastic parking cones (old friends, durable martyrs). And springtime itself, with its playful early morning light and friendly breezes—the portent of good things in the air. “Morning!” I call out to passers-by as I set up our tent. “Morning!” they respond without breaking stride, nodding as they go by. All seems right with the world and we all share the satisfaction of knowing it.
The indoor winter market is gaining momentum (its third season just concluded). We are glad to be a part of it. However, there are many people (customers and vendors alike) who remain happily fixed in the seasonality of the outdoor market, making in May a renewal of market life, which they will subscribe to weekly without fail till its conclusion in the blustery overcast chill of late October. This makes the month of May at market a time of reunion.
Farmers and market customers are mutually reconstructing an innocence, a sense of place, a spirit of season and cycle, which was supposed to have been superseded long ago. This is a mutual exercise, as tender and trusting as a band of actors working together on a play. And it is happening in real life. Children are growing up going to market on Saturday mornings. Suburbs are striving to establish viable markets in the same way they work to have good parks and schools, as part of making their community special.
This is not a reenactment of some historic thing since made romantic—civil war battles and jousting tournaments (“Good day me Lady”) or other such creatively animated anachronisms.
This is food. Now, in May, it is rhubarb sticking way out of customers’ bags, delicate starter herb plants carried carefully home to the garden, crisp lettuce. One Saturday the strawberries will be here. Sugar snaps and baby zucchinis, nearly luminescent. Then cucumbers, sweet and crisp. Eggplant and luscious tomatoes. Peaches! Plums! And late in the summer the sweet corn—mountains of it. And the melons. A succession of happy discoveries (Look! Green Beans!).
The best bread you have ever tasted. The best milk. Eggs and chicken and pork and beef absolutely unlike anything available in conventional stores and that means Whole Foods too.
One of the reasons farmers markets are so popular (you could look it up—there is an explosive renewal of farmers’ markets coast-to-coast), is that rather than being simply quaint, they in fact sync up neatly with the current pulse of things. If you think of the market as a web page…then each individual vendor is a choice you can engage if you like. You can review the vendor briefly and go on by. Or you can click and explore, and suddenly you are being offered a world of information: the oven they built to bake bread with; how they inoculate logs to grow shitake mushrooms; how grass fed cattle are rotationally grazed; why chickens lay more eggs in the summer; how fruit trees are grafted and apples cold-stored; when garlic is planted. You can drill down further, getting to know the vendor personally. You can link then to their web page or even go visit the farm.
Information-rich, story-enhanced, personality-infused—local food is not just better food. Purchased at a market like Worthington’s, it is better shopping too.
See you at market!