Saturday, August 27, 2005

Have You Hugged a Farmer Today?

Well, all right, I haven't either, and I probably haven't done so in years. (Not sure if my farming cousins are still in the business or if they're all retired by now... probably the latter. But I digress.)

But really, once again it's Saturday, and you've just gotta give it up for the local farmers' market. Despite the early morning rain, the farmers had their tables and canopies set up on time and were still setting out their produce by the time I arrived (just before 8 AM). And the rain certainly didn't keep them from having some really beautiful and tasty produce available!

First stop, as in past weeks, was to visit with the fellow with the ponytail and to pick up a bunch of organic kale as well as three quarts of organic cherry tomatoes. Perhaps you are wondering, as he did, why I needed so many cherry tomatoes when I have plenty of tomatoes growing at home? Ah, you'll have to tune in again later to find out!

On to the other organic farm stand, and I chatted briefly with the cheerful lady as I selected two small zucchini, a medium-sized butternut squash for a whopping 75 cents, a baby butternut squash for only 50 cents, and an acorn squash for 50 cents. I'm not kidding! Beautiful organic squash, dirt cheap. Honestly, she could have charged a fair bit more and I'd still have bought it.

I also picked up some adorable thumb-sized striped eggplant and a small bunch of cilantro from a gentleman farmer at the other end of the market... not sure yet what I'll make from the eggplant, but I suspect something with Indian spices may be in order.

None of you have ever asked what I typically spend on my market outings, though I certainly wouldn't hesitate to tell you that it's generally under $20 (unless I buy something like the local maple syrup or honey) to fill my backpack with lots of good produce for eating, canning, or freezing. (And yes, some of that food won't be seen again until winter, thus lowering grocery bills later on.)

Do you think that's a lot for fresh produce? I hope not! Because let's face it, when a lot of that produce is organic (thus saving the hidden cost of pesticides), ALL of it is locally grown (thus reducing considerably the hidden cost of transportation and energy), and I stretch that produce out over a week or more and tuck some away for winter, I personally think it's a huge bargain.

And the best part? Because these farmers bring their own produce to the market, with as little packaging as possible (they love it when I come with my own bags!), most if not all of what they charge for all that good food goes right back to them. No middlemen, no corporations taking their cut off the top... it all goes back to the farmers and to continuing their farm operations.

I've been reading Diet for a Dead Planet lately, and the situation for small-scale agriculture is dire. It's not easy to make a farm profitable if you have to rely on corporations to get your produce to market, and I'm sure it's also tight for those who rely solely on local markets, be they CSA programs, farmers' markets, or local restaurants.

So I feel very fortunate, indeed, to have this excellent market nearby with such a good variety of farms and produce represented. And while I may not show my affection for the folks there by randomly hugging the farmers each week (they think I'm a little eccentric anyway, but still...), they do have my lasting respect and appreciation.

And I'm happy to give them my money for all those good veggies!


At 8/29/2005 3:29 PM, Anonymous Tina said...

I think I spent almost $40 on my first trip to the Farmer's Market, but that included local maple syrup, and a couple of baked treats (can't pass up the baked treats!) I typically spend about $20 which I consider quite reasonable, especially considering the quality is ALWAYS far better than anything I can get in the store. On one recent trip, I picked up a jar of homemade, pink gooseberry jam--try finding THAT in a grocery store!

At 8/29/2005 3:33 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Seriously! And a good deal of the produce I've seen is in better condition than what I find at the grocery store.

I can usually pass up the baked treats, though I'm a sucker for the chocolate-espresso cookies that the folks from Broken Rocks Bakery bring in. Wow! Usually, though, if my sweet tooth needs a little something, I just scoot across the street to the Hungarian pastry shop... :)

At 8/29/2005 3:48 PM, Anonymous Tina said...

Yes, MUCH better condition than the grocery store! And, the peaches I buy actually ripen properly, unlike the rocks they sell in the store, which just turn mealy (yuck!)

BTW, once you're finished, will there be a review of Diet for a Dead Planet on the Dead Parrot Reading Circle?

At 8/29/2005 3:55 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I haven't found peaches or plums at the farmers' market this year... have had to go to the grocery store for those (but at least they get them locally)... alas...

Look for the review of Diet for a Dead Planet here... possibly in a couple of parts. I'm currently taking notes from it because there's at least one section that I want to muse about in depth here, so look for it later this week!


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