Every day, as I rode the school bus throughout my girlhood, I looked out the windows at the passing countryside. Growing up in what we were taught was “The Bread Basket of America” (a designation given during the Civil War), I did not quite understand where the basket came in, or the bread. All I could see was cows and corn.
But, the corn—it was glorious! Out the window, I watched the fields fill first with green seedlings, then tasseled maypoles, then finally the fullness of ripe “ears” for harvest.
When I got to be a teenager, I would go to my friend Kim’s house, where I learned the summer ritual of eating only-corn-for-dinner. We would shuck twelve ears, boil them until bright yellow, and roll them in the stick of butter we’d set out with the salt shaker. Dinner was complete.
The memory of that ritual is sweet. And the corn itself was sweeter still. There is nothing like eating food picked fresh from the field. And that is how our corn-for-dinner was eaten.
The produce most of us procure from grocery stores is rarely fresh. Some of the genetically-modified sorts can literally sit for months before we purchase. Each day they lose a little more nutrients. And sweetness, true field-sweetness, is not to be found.
For our trouble (and some sweetness), we can recapture some of the goodness I experienced in my girlhood, by going to a farmers market. Now it is true that not all farmers markets are created equal. But if we go to one where we know the farmers and see the fields and the fresh harvesting, that’s a sweet choice indeed.
Even city dwellers can experience this, with urban farming projects like Karen Washington’s in New York City, which makes a great model for other cities to explore.
Besides offering more tasty, more nutritious food, farmers markets offer an unexpected bonus: those who shop at such markets are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables than those who shop at regular supermarkets. (For an inspiring read about this phenomenon, check out the urban farming section in Daphne Miller’s Farmacology: Total Health From the Ground Up!)
Have you ever shopped at a farmers market? Which one? Put it in a poem for us to enjoy the experience with you. Or, write from the perspective of one of the fruits or vegetables sitting out in the open air.
From the first,
I loved this place.
its own story.
its own story,
I nestle kale,
into my basket—
bring a bit of story