Is there a farmers market near me?
Farmers markets have become more than just a place to buy fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables; they have also become neighbourhood gathering places. I was recently at a farmers market in Fort Myers, FL and I was amazed at the different kinds of produce available. Everything from fresh citrus to the actual trees themselves. Down in Fresno, CA people are enjoying the first stone fruits of the season alongside succulent strawberries making the perfect fruit salad in May while those of us in the north are patiently waiting for the first fruits. In the meantime we are feasting on early greens.
Farmers markets are places of discovery and culinary adventure. At a farmers market in Kansas City I found several kinds of green leafy vegetables that I learned to cook and love while living in the Central African Republic. I never thought I would find them in the US but obviously I am not the only person craving for pumpkin leaf tips, amaranth greens and cassava leaves. Learning what grows in each season and adjusting recipes and cooking habits to fit has been a fun adventure. Although strawberries in December look tempting, I am learning to freeze our local berries in the summer and eat them with yogurt in winter. They seem to taste so much better than the ones flown in from thousands of miles away.
Equally important to me, farmers markets are a chance to meet and thank the farmers that grow the food that not only sustains us but gives us pleasure in the cooking, sharing and eating. Taking the time to speak with those selling vegetables, meats and breads at the market leads to some fantastic friendships. Good friends of mine grow citrus in Florida. While they were expecting their first child their weekly customers followed them as her belly got bigger and bigger. Near the end of the season she went into labor at the farmers market and two weeks later brought their 12 day old son to market where their customers were eagerly awaiting the baby’s arrival. Some even brought gifts and cards. The community that can be built around knowing who grows your food and how is a wonderful gift.
Many FRB growing projects are no strangers to their local farmers markets. A youth group in Iowa sells its fresh sweet corn out of the back of a pick-up truck every summer at the local farmers market. Apples, peaches and nectarines are sold in Wenatchee, WA each summer with part of the proceeds designated for an FRB program. New projects in California are growing sweet corn north of Sacramento with the proceeds going to their FRB growing project. Beyond a place to sell a crop, the farmers market is a place to tell the FRB story in a new and fresh way.
I wrote this post because I just moved from Portland to Bend, OR and was looking for farmers markets in my new town. The NRDC just released a new website and app for iPad and iPhone users that helps you know what is in season and where you can find it. You will find directions to regional and local farmers markets as well as recipe suggestions for how to cook what is in season. Enjoy! http://www.simplesteps.org/eat-local