Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Sea of People and Produce

I'm lucky to live within biking distance of a year-round farmers market, no small feat here in the icy, snowy, slushy, sleety Northeast. That said, lately I've been driving because this is what the bike path looks like:

Last weekend the Northampton Winter Farmers Market transmogrified into the Northampton Winter Fare. This is part of series in which several local winter markets merge together and, like Voltron, create something even more formidable.

The Fare was jam-packed, partly with people selling packed jam. It was inspiring to see so many people come out on a frosty Saturday to support their local farmers, and the offerings were top notch: chickens, eggs, grass fed beef, honey, maple syrup, cider, apples, root veggies, blackcurrant cordial and so forth. My favorite purchase was a broccoli plant.

While most vendors were selling vegetables that had already been picked, one offered pots full of lettuce ($2) and broccoli ($5). For little more than the cost of a severed head of broccoli, you could buy a still-living broccoli and guillotine it yourself. The farmer assured me I'd have a nice, full crown and then smaller rabe-like offshoots for the next month or two. I'd say buying it was a no-brainer, except that the young crown looks like a little green brain.

While surfing the sea of like minded food devotees and gawking at people hawking frost-sweetened veggies and sacks of apples, I was overcome with a single powerful thought: imagine if none of this existed. A few years ago, it didn't.

I can't believe how quickly the local foods movement has come into being. A few years ago, the high school cafeteria that hosted the event would have been empty except for a few stale morsels of beefaroni and the ghosts of lunchtime insults still hovering in the air. Thousands of dollars would not have gone to small farms, and thousands of pounds of real food would not have had been bought.

Luckily, all that did happen. And luckily, the patrons had the good sense to ignore the sign on the door to the venue.

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Lady Jane said...

The rate that this modern local food movement has been moving lately is wonderfully astounding.

I actually just returned from a benefit dinner for a local organic farmer who just recently lost his farm. The entire dinner was focused around sustainable food and its importance to communities and was hosted at the local church. I don't think I could have seen this two or three years ago.

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