For the past couple of days I have been offering up a number of ways to make your experience at the farmers market more meaningful. My suggestions have included: know your seasons, know your farmers, and know the rules. These three suggestions, when applied, will help you avoid mistakenly supporting individuals or businesses that are there only to exploit you and your interest in sustainable agriculture.
My last suggestion regarding how to make your experience at the farmers market more meaningful is to plant a garden of your own. The experience of growing your own will enhance your market experience. Individuals who grow a portion of their own food have a deeper appreciation for the work of farmers and tend to have a better sense of what they are looking for at the market. As you begin growing your own food you will learn to recognize the sometimes subtle differences between good farmers and really exceptional farmers.
For example, you will learn that a farmer can increase the size of tomatoes by watering during the last week of production. If you are paying by the pound, you will essentially be paying for extra water weight. An exceptional farmer will actually turn off the water on those tomatoes forcing them to refine additional sugars that will enhance tomato flavor. The tomato will be smaller, and therefore, a bit more costly for the farmer to produce, but will be far superior.
I have spent the last several years researching the socioeconomic value of home food production. Though I can’t list all of the many reasons why you should give gardening a go in this blog, let me suggest just one. One of the really interesting values of gardening is that it tends to generate thoughtful and committed local food consumers. As you launch your own garden you’ll find it easier to know your seasons, know your farmer, and know the rules. You will find that you better understand what sustainable agriculture means and you will have a better sense of the value of local farmers. It is a winning situation for you and for your farmer. Give it a shot!
Vincent M. Smith