It only takes a bite out of a juicy nectarine. Or the smell of fresh tomatoes. Or one look at rainbow chard’s beautiful natural coloring. A walk through the stalls allows even the non-local believer to understand the beauty that a farmers’ market holds.
While visiting local markets in August during Massachussetts Farmers Market week, I took in the tastes and smells that hard-working local farmers bring to the table – and those that they allow me to feast upon in my own kitchen.
Local farmers’ markets felt the love during this weeklong celebration. All-day festivals, cooking demonstrations, and raffles were in town for the occasion.
While visiting the Lexington and Belmont Farmers Markets, voted Best of Boston by The Boston Globe in 2010 and 2009 respectively, I was pleased to hear that this burst of affection was not a brief fling, but instead a long term love affair. The farmers I spoke with have received affection from passionate market patrons for years.
For local farmer’s markets, like Lexington’s fresh food hub, “rain or shine” is not just a phrase, but an ethos. As I dodged puddles and tried to shield myself under an umbrella, farmers sat at their stands ready to serve patrons.
I soon found Ellery Kimball, owner and farmer of Blue Heron Organic Farm, at her post. She explained that over the past ten years she has witnessed a remarkable increase in educated youth who are curious about the food they eat and who are far more engaged in the process. It is safe to say that programs such as this Lexington Farmers Market’s Kids Cooking Green Program, which provides educational outreach to local elementary students, is contributing to the increasing youth awareness.
Kimball also credited authors like Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver, and films such as Food Inc., for this change. They have encouraged consumers to think more about the food they buy, and patrons even mention these influences when purchasing fresh produce and meat.
The local trend is more than a phase. While she admits that the local food movement is currently “hip and trendy,” Kimball believes that “eventually it’ll become normal, a staple.”
The growing movement can certainly be seen at enrollment for next year’s class at The Farm School at Maggie’s Farm. The program will have an unprecedented 14 students next year and still has more stuck on the wait list.
Despite tough economic times, Kimball and Stella Rabinowitz (of Maggie’s Farm) contend that their farms’ businesses have not suffered. A passion for local foods and a growing awareness of the health benefits (a pleasant side effect of feasting on what we can grow in our own backyards!) have created a powerful movement which cannot be deterred.
As the weather turns colder, keep eating local grub and support your neighboring farmers. Need some inspiration? For some ideas on locally grown meals for all seasons crack open Fresh From the Farmers’ Market by Janet Fletcher. Happy feasting!