This Saturday, the little one and I decided to venture out to the local farmer’s market. This was our first time going together, and I know she was excited to see all the people and shop for her favorite thing in the world: food.
It was an absolutely beautiful day out – I mean, the sun was beaming, the sky was gorgeous, and the entire area smelled like greens and sausages. I wasn’t partaking of the hog, but it did smell nice.
The very last time I went to a farmer’s market would’ve been two years ago, at a time when I didn’t quite understand the awesomeness before me. I didn’t really know the value of knowing the person who grew and cared for the food I was cooking for my daughter. Shoot, as many plants as I’ve killed in my day? I didn’t really know or appreciate the skill involved in growing and caring for a plant regardless of whether or not it bore edible fruit.
But honestly, I don’t know – maybe it was being in the presence of other hippies. Maybe it was seeing all these farming/engineering students selling the results from their semester. Maybe it was excitement about being able to support other small businesses. Maybe it was the vegan organic dark chocolate truffles that I bought (and let me tell you… they were so darn good, I was actually angry at how delicious they were!) But something in the air was just, relaxing. It was peaceful. It was fun.
People often say that the grocery store allows you to remain separated from the process that created your food, and I now fully believe that. I purchased a bushel of tarragon from a woman who told me exactly how to care for “her” fresh herbs. Bought two bushels of mustard greens and two of turnip greens from a guy who’s hand I shook and laughed with as I complained about my inability to even sprout rosemary in my little pot, let alone greens. I mean, there’s a real passion and excitement from these people – a hunger to get paid, yes, but a real desire to do what they do… and that’s the kind of stuff I can support. Absolutely.
I will tell you, though – as I was heading out, I happened to pass by the only Black-owned and operated booth (looked to be all-women, too) at the market. I actually snatched up my daughter and took off speed walking to find out what they were selling. Pulled pork, rib tips, BBQ chicken… all kinds of meat. Smelled like heaven – do you hear me? Heavenly. However… as I’m slowly paring down my meat consumption, it just wasn’t the day for me to indulge and I knew that day wasn’t coming anytime soon. I called one of the girls over to the side and told her “Hey, I’d love to support y’all, but I don’t eat meat – do you have anything that you offer for the meat-free?” She called over the elder who pretty much just laughed at me, almost like she was ready to say “Girl, you better eat some of this chicken!”
They eventually offered to sell me their BBQ sauce which, while I make a pretty mean BBQ sauce on my own, I was still glad to take in order to be able to support. The elder asked me, “If you don’t eat meat, though… what are you going to use the BBQ sauce on?” I just told her… “Grilled corn, grilled or baked veggie kabobs – just grill it up real proper, brush the sauce on it and let it grill a little longer.” She gave me that “Ahhhh” face, thanked me, and I happily skipped off with my new sauce. (And I was so excited to see ’em there, I forgot to take pictures. I’ll be snapping away next week, though.) Hopefully, they take my idea and offer up some veggies next week. If not, I’ll just be buying that BBQ sauce because it was yummy.
Since I was actually doing the shopping this time, not just accompanying a friend, I learned a few lessons the hard way. Hopefully, you can learn from my trip:
Because there were so many sellers offering similar/the same items, it makes sense to wander around the entire market first and take note of who has the cheapest prices for your choice items. Since it is the time of year for your healthy greens, you’re likely to find a ton of people selling those very things and competing against one another for your money. There were a slew of people selling spinach and strawberries… looking before I purchased saved me a few dollars.
I had to also make sure I had a slew of singles on hand. Obviously, not everyone is going to have the swiper for a charge card, but even if they do have it, they’re not always reliable. Not only that, but… identities are valuable. Just sayin’. Keep your cash handy.
I also learned – the hard way – that sometimes, farmers will drop their prices right before time to close to ensure that they sell everything they brought out that day. The downside to this is that if you choose to wait, you very well may miss out on what you had your eye on. The upside is if all goes well, you can get it for half the price you originally saw or less. Have to play to win.
My last bit of advice in regard to visiting the farmer’s market? Enjoy yourself! I wasn’t expecting to see this giant kettle corn stand, nor was I expecting my little girl to keep getting offered free food and flowers. If I had known that, we would’ve skipped breakfast and just ate there! It’s a place full of people who enjoy what they do and just might have a thing or two to share with you. I mean, as many times as I saw heirloom* mushrooms and tomatoes, I was asking questions all day. That’s okay, though – they got my money, and I skipped off happily with my kale and zucchini and green tomatoes in tow.
If you’re wanting to check out all the fun for yourself, check out LocalHarvest.org to find the nearest farmer’s market or comparable grocery near you. I took mayyyybe $20 with me and came out with zucchini, green tomatoes, herbs, 4 bushels of greens, BBQ sauce, spinach, strawberries, honey (as seen in the photo of the honey sticks, there), my vegan organic chocolate truffles (which are making me mad again as I type this) and a bouquet of fresh flowers. For fresh and organic, I didn’t do too bad at all.
Share your experiences at the farmer’s market! Did you enjoy yourself there, as well? What do you usually get from there? Shoot, I’m always looking for new foods to experiment with!
*What’s heirloom? Just a variation of a plant that is rarely grown and sold anymore. Take corn, for example. Many farmers will stick to selling the type of corn most likely to sell/easiest to grow in bulk/easiest to process/easy/easy/easy. This causes many of the lesser known kinds of corn to become less and less common. So consider “heirloom” to be an antique version of a favorite kind of food, so to speak. 🙂