It’s no surprise that I am a fan of fresh veggies, and have recently discovered the fun in growing my own. But over the last few years, the value of “keeping it local” — supporting local producers, craftsmen, service providers and the like — has grown in importance and influence over how we shop (and eat).
Back in NYC, we had always been patrons of the Greenmarkets and made it our routine to hit up one of the markets a few times a week as our first stop for provisions, heading to the supermarket for whatever remained on the list. We even signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture), where we had a subscription for weekly summer produce from an organic farm on Long Island. A guaranteed weekly installment of freshly picked veggies and fruit in the middle of the city? Not hard to sell me on that…
When we decided to move on to the rural life, seeking out and supporting growers/producers of local food was high on our list. Imagine our disappointment when we found there was no farmer’s market nearby. In an area where there’s a picturesque tree-lined field around every bend in the road and tractors slow down traffic on the highway, it was pretty depressing that the closest farmer’s market was nearly an hour away, and the few roadside stands you could find featured pineapples, oranges and avocados (not exactly locally grown…)
As soon as we arrived I began asking around, trying to get a sense of how others bought local produce and seafood, and whether there was any hope of finding a centralized market with local producers come summertime. Nearly everyone I spoke to was enthusiastic, reminiscing about days past when the farms in the area grew an array of produce and sold much of it right here… but the predictable response was “nope, nothing like that around here.”
If you’re in your car for more than 5 minutes, you’ll surely pass a field planted with something, but most of them grow acres of monoculture commodity crops (corn, soy, barley…). Sure, the corn fields are attractive, but you can’t buy any of it. Most of it is grown for animal feed, or probably being trucked off to somewhere to be transformed into soy lecithin or corn syrup. (Ok, I don’t actually know where it’s being trucked to, but I do know that nothing growing out there is available in the supermarket labeled “local”).
Fast forward to earlier this year, when I read in the newspaper that there were rumblings of a farmers & artisans market forming in one of the nearby towns with a bona fide “downtown” district. I was so excited, I called the town to find out who was in charge, and promptly signed myself up as a volunteer, super excited to be a part of getting it off the ground.
As it turns out, there are quite a few farmers here who are raising crops that they actually want to sell nearby — they’re growing a diverse range of crops and many of them doing it organically. There are fruit orchards, oyster beds, hog raisers, honeybee-keepers and all manner of other food-loving folks here who are keen on coming together to offer their wares to the community.
In May, the Onancock Market was launched. We are really pumped to be involved, helping to spread the word about buying local. At least that’s what I tell myself when I get up at 5:30 am on Saturdays to get down to help set up the tents…
I suppose I hadn’t realized how much I missed being part of a community effort since we left our extensive community in the city, but it’s been such a breath of fresh air to get involved with an initiative that to I really care about. And what’s more, we’ve made some really great friends as a result. I think that’s part of the charm of a farmer’s market: it’s a place to run into friends and have a chat over a cup of coffee, while filling your grocery bag every Saturday morning.
PS – if you’re interested in finding out more about farmer’s markets (or CSAs or U-Pick farms…) wherever you are, I suggest you check out LocalHarvest.org