I only recently realized how much of an impact physical place can have on a person. Some environments feel very comfortable to me, while others feel foreign and awkward. I grew up in Indiana, a state that is in a section of land called “the Midwest”. The Midwest has a very distinct topography, climate, and culture to it: The physical earth is generally flat or very mildly hilly, and the soil is nutrient-rich and very suitable for farming (which, until relatively recently, was the primary vocation of many Midwestern residents). All four climactic seasons occur in each state in the Midwest, though to varying degrees of severity. People who are born and raised in the Midwest tend to be hard-working, practical, down-to-earth individuals (though of course exceptions will always exist). Still, certain generalities can be made about the overall “feel” one would expect to sense when visiting (or living in) any of the 12 Midwestern states. So while I now live more than 500 miles from my home town, my current home state shares many resemblances to the environment of my youth; as a result, it feels ‘like home’ to me.
While winter in my current hometown can be brutal (though the citizens here have found many clever ways to not only deal with it, but thrive in it, even enjoy it [!]), fall, spring, and summer, do their best to compensate for the difficult experiences that winter can deliver. In autumn the trees treat us to a spectacular show of fall color: vibrant reds, yellows, oranges, and various shades in between blanket neighborhoods, fields, and forests in amazing hues. Spring delivers lots of rain, true – but also grass as green as Ireland, and lilacs, freesia, and other blooms that literally perfume the air. And summer yields not only long days of bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine, but lots and lots of fresh produce.
In fact, the growing season is so robust that farm-direct vegetables and fruits are sold in gatherings all over the metro area. These “farmer’s markets” occur every day of the week, in parking lots, at colleges, next to museums – even on some busy downtown streets. Indeed, during these past many years with my employer, I have spent numerous Thursday lunch hours (from May to October) strolling one of the main downtown roads, perusing various farmer’s wares.
Last year the suburb my sweetie and I live in decided to add their own farmer’s market to the mix of existing offerings. The hyper-local market opened last July; and every week I said to myself, “I should really get over to the new market and check it out…” I wanted to support the people in my community who do such an important job (i.e., create food for all of us to eat), and I also wanted to show the city that we residents really do value and appreciate these wonderful amenities that our local government employees work to create. I wanted the market to not only survive, but thrive; and I knew people just like me would be the ones who would help make (or break) the new venture.
But as the summer kicked into full swing my life got busy; and despite my good ‘intentions’, I simply never took the time or made the effort to visit the new market. July gave way to August, which yielded to September, which quickly surrendered to October – and by the time I was ‘getting ready’ to visit the market, it was over. Amazing how quickly time moves.
I didn’t want to allow the same inertia to occur this year, so “Go to the city’s farmer’s market” was one of the first items I put on my 101 list. Having learned from last summer’s procrastinating ways, I took advantage of some personal time this past Wednesday, left work a little bit early, and made my way to the parking lot of the local fitness center – where the market was in full swing.
Nearly 30 vendors, all located within 60 miles of the city, stood beneath big white canopies, showcasing their beautiful wares. As I approached the first tent I inhaled deeply, soaking in the powerful scents of fresh herbs and the earthy notes of sun-warmed vegetables. Along the perimeter of the market were vendors selling ready-made products: things like kettle corn, ice cream, smoothies, breads. Moving closer to the center of the market, the next ring of vendors sold packaged products: items like infused olive oils, balsamic vinegars, honey, granola, salsas, jams, relishes. In the core of the market stood stalls that sold fresh-from-the-ground produce: melons, berries, peppers, onions, garlic, cucumbers, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beans, eggplants, zucchini, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, beets… Nearly every imaginable seasonal produce item was present. Incredible.
I took my time strolling from one stall to the next, delighting in the organic foods before me. I smiled at the vendors, and listened to their spiels. I longed to buy one of everything being sold; but in the end, I actually walked away from the scene empty-handed. Even if I ate nothing but fruits and vegetables, I still wouldn’t be able to consume most of the foods in the quantities being sold at the market. I don’t need five tomatoes, I need one. A large eggplant would feed me for a week – but I don’t enjoy dining on eggplant seven days in a row. Melons tend to spoil before I’m able to finish the entire fruit. And so on.
Though I parted from the market without any food, I didn’t leave disappointed. Instead, I walked away from the place inspired. The idea of my own home garden once again snuck into my mind – but this time the undertaking didn’t seem quite so daunting. So who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll have a tiny “farmer’s market” of my own…? 🙂