Five Years Plus

{May 29, 2010}   The Perfect Farmer’s Market – eating local part 2

Cazenovia is bustling this morning on what must be the perfect farmer’s market day at 72 degrees with a light breeze. Marcia Hahn’s poem captures the scene at  today’s Cazenovia Farmer’s Market just about right:

Cazenovia Farmer's Market

A lively, entertaining event…
at an easily accessible location
so farmers can keep their transportation costs low,
and customers will find plenty of free parking nearby,
along with colourful, inviting displays
hosted by a diversity of
friendly, compliant vendors
who have brought just the right mix and quantity
of fresh, home grown quality products
to sell for a reasonable profit
to a constant flow of savvy, loyal shoppers
eager to spend their money on local food and
willing to learn about the newest specialty products,…
wanting to come back week after week
– topped off with picture perfect weather and
plenty of shade.

In the usually quiet strip of green called Memorial Park (formerly known as Cannon Park for the piece of artillery placed there), right beside the main street in town, an array of vendors have set out their wares. The market is bursting with bright colors from a vast array of perennials and annuals, vegetable seedlings (for those desiring to grow their own) and locally grown vegetables (for those who don’t). Today I sampled asparagus, radish, salad greens and spinach. There are always plenty of tempting home-baked cookies, pies, and breads, pasture-raised meat, fresh fish, herbs and preserves as well as local artists and artisans with beautiful hand-made wood furniture and cutting boards, drawings, photographs, pottery, jewelry and more. We buy some greens and herbs from Alison at Frosty Morning Farm, home-baked chocolate macaroons from Jim at Raindrop Farms, pasture-raised lamb and beef from my step-daughter Hayley who is working this summer at Meadowood Farms. Chuck tries the delicious yogurt, which they will have for sale along with sheep’s milk cheese in about two weeks. Last week we bought bacon from Drover Hill Farm, and some excellent scallops from Julien Polge the fish vendor.

Hayley & Kathy

I meet perhaps a dozen people I know as I stroll along the sidewalk as well as the regular vendors, many of whom also feel like friends. This was never the case when we used to navigate the tight parking and crowded barns and stalls of the enormous Central New York Regional Market (New York State’s largest farmer’s market – in business continuously since 1933) to buy our grass fed meat. Tiny by comparison, our village market holds a certain appeal. In fact, today I overheard, “We live only 10 minutes from the Regional Market but it’s so crowded there it’s worth it to come to Cazenovia.” As Cazenovians, our village market is always our first choice but we also love the larger Hamilton Farmer’s Market and the fabulous Ithaca Farmer’s Market which has permanent buildings, musicians, food stalls and a lovely waterfront setting.

Aside from the idyllic feeling and social interaction, there are some seriously good reasons to be a regular weekly customer of your local farmers market:

  1. Know where your food comes from. Talk to the farmer and find out how and where the food is grown. Some markets are large enough to attract resellers of non-local food. Getting to know the story behind the food we eat nourishes us in more ways than one.
  2. Boost the local economy. Spending dollars locally multiplies prosperity for the community. Farms and pastures make a beautiful “green belt” around a community, but are not economically feasible if you don’t support them by buying their products.
  3. Better fresher food. Farmer’s market produce is picked when it’s ripe and ready, often within 24 hours (versus days or weeks at the Supermarket) of your purchase.  Fresh ripe food tastes better and is more nutritious. Supermarket fruit is picked green because ripe fruits can’t withstand the transport and handling. Hard green supermarket tomatoes are gassed to turn them red at their destination. The farmer’s market will have a greater variety, many from seeds the growers have developed personally.
  4. Stay in touch with the seasons. Local food is only available in-season. I am passionate about savoring seasonal produce – asparagus in May, cherries, strawberries and blueberries in June and July, corn in August, apples and pears in September and pumpkins and squash in October.  Eating food in season connects us to the land and allows our bodies to harmonize with the earth’s rhythms.
  5. Avoid disease. Local food is less likely to encounter harmful contamination on its way to your home. The freshness and diversity available at the local market provides a larger range and quantity of nutrients and disease-fighting phytochemicals including carotenoids, flavonoids, inositol phosphates, lignans, isothiocyanates, phenols, selenium, saponins and sulfides which act as antioxidants and co-factors in metabolism. Local food may literally boost the immune system, stabilize estrogen metabolism, kill cancer cells and repair damage to DNA caused exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke or industrial chemicals.

Alison "braving the weather" May 15

The beginning of the Farmer’s Market is a Rite of Spring – it marks the boundary between the warm part of the year and the cold. Being a regular customer of the local farmer’s market week in and week out is important. We vote with our dollars much more effectively than at the polls. That which we support thrives and that which we don’t dies. The vendors work a long hard day, brave the elements, load and unload the produce, set-up and tear down displays. It’s the regular customers who provide the base to make their efforts worthwhile and economically sustainable. Shopping regularly at the local farmer’s market is one of the four keys to eating locally along with sourcing local pasture-raised meat and eggs, subscribing to a local CSA, and supporting local-foods restaurants. I leave you this week with a farmer’s market tip: arrive early for the best selection, arrive late for the best price. But whatever time, make sure you arrive!


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