Can you keep a secret? I have a confession to make…
I don’t like farmer’s markets.
There, I said it. Oh, you couldn’t hear me? Ok, this is a little hard to admit, but I’ll try again…
I don’t like farmer’s markets 😦
Heresy, I know…I care a lot about real food and the environment, and farmer’s markets are supposed to be the magic answer to supporting local business, reducing environmental impact, and getting the freshest, most delicious seasonal food. I should be the type of person who takes my family every weekend and has a wonderful time chatting with farmers and picking out our food for the week. Except in reality I have a really hard time finding my place in the farmer’s market world for a few reasons.
First, most of the farmer’s markets near me carry very little organic produce. I am strongly committed to organics due to the health and environmental impact, I guess more than I’m committed to local. I know that industrial organic might not be ideal either, but at the same time I find it really hard to buy non-organic produce at a farmer’s market when I can go to Whole Foods whenever I want and have a huge selection, often for a better price.
I also find them to be very overwhelming. It’s a completely different way of shopping than what I’m used to, and I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do. How do I carry my stuff? Do I have enough cash, or can I pay with credit card? Where do I start? Which are the best stands? I know people say to talk to the non-organic farmers about their growing practices to see if they’re really organic in spirit, if not certification, but I’m not very comfortable starting up conversations. I find myself wandering in circles trying to find the best stand to shop from, annoyed that the meat being sold doesn’t say anything about being pastured or grass-fed, arguing with my kids about when we can buy the cookies and juice for sale, and stressed out about whether I just dragged my whole family here on a weekend to go home empty handed. Then I feel guilty for not enjoying our time there and for wishing I was just in Whole Foods.
Anyone else with me on this?
I know that like many other changes in my life it just takes practice to build up comfort – trying a few different markets, building up the courage to start those conversations, and learning my rhythm. Just like cooking from scratch and becoming a parent, big changes in our lives require patience and a slow learning curve to become second nature, and I am determined to learn to appreciate the beauty of the farmer’s market, a concept that I love in theory!
So, in an effort to keep learning, last weekend we decided to try a new market about 20 minutes from my house. And at that market there was a gigantic stand of 100% certified organic New Jersey produce with a huge selection and good prices. It was like I struck gold! I still wandered in circles for a bit while hubby chased the kids (who were chasing all of the dogs!), trying to figure out how much I could reasonably buy and use in some form before the food started to go bad. I ended up with 2 baskets of cucumbers, a big basket of zucchini, a bunch of basil, 2 eggplants, a big watermelon, some heirloom tomatoes, and a 25 lb box of roma tomatoes that was an amazing deal*.
Did you read that last line? 25 POUNDS OF TOMATOES! Oh, boy…after getting some great ideas from some of you who follow my facebook page, I am still working my way through that box. I’m hoping to have a collection of ideas for you all to try if you happen to find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes as well, along with what I did with the rest of my loot. In the mean time, I am thrilled to have finally had a positive experience at a farmer’s market, and am hoping to make many more trips this season. I’ll keep you posted!
*By the way, in case you were concerned, we did also leave with a whole grain chocolate chip scone, double chocolate cookie, and chocolate walnut oatmeal bar. And a 5 pound bottle of local honey 🙂
One thought on “Shhh…it’s a secret…”
Good for you for being honest about this! Sometimes it seems like everybody on the internet is Instagram-ing their farmer’s market photos, so it’s brave of you to open this discussion : ) It took me a few years to formulate my opinion on farmer’s markets, and now I see them more as a fun family outing (we go monthly to pick up our meat CSA) rather than the primary way I buy produce. In the summer, I shop as often as I can at our local farmstand. For me, this is a more practical way to feed our family, because it’s open 7 days a week and I can go at my convenience. Still, like a farmer’s market, I’m buying local, and I can get whatever has been fresh picked that day and plan our meals accordingly. Also, I don’t have to grill everybody at the farmer’s market about their growing practices (like you, I’m not really comfortable starting these conversations!) because my local farm has a blog and website and is reasonably upfront about their limited use of pesticides (they use Integrated Pest Management).Lastly (this is really long comment, I know!), I think the local vs. organic question is a difficult and fascinating one. Lately, the way I’ve been navigating this question is primarily by taste. This summer we’ve unintentionally ended up doing side-by-side taste tests of a lot of Whole Foods organic produce vs. farmstand IPM produce, and the fresh-picked local stuff wins every time. So, aside from the worst of the “dirty dozen”, I’m choosing local whenever possible, and hoping that the (possible) ingestion of trace amounts of pesticides 2 months out of the year will not give my family cancer. Fingers crossed ; )