Friday, December 13, 2013
I was at the Augusta Farmer's Market at Mill Park a couple of weeks ago, buying my usual half-gallon of raw milk from Sarah Smith of Grassland Farm. She was talking to a person who, at the time, appeared to be a customer, but who I now have reason to believe was a Kennebec Journal reporter.
(The resulting story, about local farmers' markets, appeared in last Monday's newspaper.)
Sarah was saying something -- later quoted in the article -- that piqued my interest, about how farmers now have to try to reach people who just drive by markets, and don't even consider shopping at one.
That's actually a subject I've given some thought to over the years. I don't have a stake in this issue, except for the fact that the more people shop at "my" farmers' market, the more stable it is. I can't keep hoping that my favorite vendors will return year after year if too few people buy their products.
As an inveterate people watcher, I've wondered why acquaintances have expressed interest in the farmers' market, delighted in partaking of market goodies, even proclaimed their support for local enterprises -- and, yet, never shopped there.
Of course, frequenting farmers' markets is a personal choice. No shame should be cast upon those who don't.
Well, not too much, anyway. I'm just confused about why anyone would pass up the chance to eat fresh, local vegetables that taste a million times better than the devoid-of-life produce we in New England have to endure for at least eight months of the year. I do have a few theories, however.
* Some people fear human interaction. This is a relatively recent phenomenon, in the scheme of human development. And it's just getting worse. Once, everybody shopped at open-air markets. They shopped at little corner groceries or general stores for a long while after that. Nowadays, most of us spend a lot of time with our electronics. We drive "through" fast food restaurants, banks and pharmacies. If we're really anti-social, we can do much business online, even having groceries delivered.
I can't allay the distaste some of us have for looking someone in the eye and saying, "thank you," or, gasp, "How do you cook this thing?" It's absolutely true -- you can't avoid talking to people at a farmers' market. Why, you might even run into a neighbor or two while you are there.
It might sound shocking, but most people who shop at farmers' markets actually enjoy this social interaction. It's one reason we go.
* Some people don't eat fruits and vegetables. This may sound outlandish to those of us who are determined to get our daily fives, but it's reality. The most common vegetable eaten in America is the potato, in the form of the french fry. I would suspect that orange juice is the most consumed "fruit."
Many of us would not recognize an eggplant if it hit us up side the head, and would have no notion of what to do with it anyway.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Corn season is a big draw at farmers' markets. Everybody loves corn on the cob. I shouldn't even mention it's really a grain ... oops.
I'd like to see more people eating fruits and veggies because it's the healthy thing to do. However, I feel compelled to point out that there are other items to be purchased at the farmers' market. At Mill Park, one can buy beef, rabbit, pork, jam, yogurt, bread, flowers and whoopie pies. Darn good homemade whoopie pies, too.
Did I mention ice cream?
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