It’s no secret how much I love going to farmer’s markets. In my childhood years, my grandmother visited the local market in Jackson every week in the summer for whatever was fresh and looked good enough for her family. She would buy bushels of peas and beans for us to shell, blanch, and preserve for the winter months. I can’t count how many ears of corn we shucked and scraped off the cob for creamed sweet corn. Gigantic aluminum tubs of the stuff would sit on all 4 gas burners on her stove while we took turns stirring. If we let it sit too long, the sugars would scald. There is nothing quite as fearful as my grandmother with a scalded and ruined batch of corn.
It’s memories like this that influenced my love for farmer’s markets. I also have enjoyed getting to know my local farmers and butchers. I like knowing where my zucchini grew. I like knowing Miss Emily’s chickens that lay my eggs each week. There is a deeper richness in my breakfast eggs knowing that Miss Emily takes care of her happy chickens.
Mr. Richard’s cows have fed my family for almost 4 years. I like knowing where these cows live and seeing them graze in a pasture. I like having conversations with the sausage man about our house construction and him watching the progression when he travelled our road. That’s a new neighborhood contact to have handy in case we needed a watcher while on vacation. I can’t get that at Walmart or Publix.
Farmer’s markets are strong communities that lead to strong neighbor connections. Seeing the same people each week encourages conversations and promotes community growth. Seeing my favorite cookie and paleo baker picking out the in-season fruits is refreshing. I know that week’s menu will contain something strawberry or rhubarb. This week, I will likely see blueberries on the bakery menu. I won’t find peach scones in January. I’ll find a wider supply of greens for her paleo soups and salads delivery to my CrossFit gym. Stopping to chat with Mary is something I won’t likely do while rushing around in Target.
We travel a lot and every chance I get, we find a local farmer’s market. I love exploring the differences in regions. In early summer in Colorado, we see a lot of jewelry, woodworks, soaps, hand-made bags hats and clothes. The growing season is short in high altitude so smaller markets offer preserved food products like pickles, jar soups, salsas, jerky, and trail mixes. Local bean roasters tempt us with rich coffee on a Sunday afternoon. The day we found popsicles and shared a jalapeno pineapple one is a fantastic memory to look back upon.
With summer halfway over, our growing season extends into late October/November. I have many more Saturdays to look forward to visiting the Tuscaloosa market and Birmingham Pepper Place market. Late summer fruits, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, onions, and herbs are on the menu for the next few weeks along with local beef and pork. It’s a great time of year to visit the local markets.