11/8/14 Farmer Markets

Main Line Times Column, Place We Love – Farmers Markets

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, one thing on our minds this time of year is food.  One of the greatest pleasures of fall is creating special seasonal foods for your friends and family.  The pleasure of the meal is many fold, with one important part being the act of collecting the ingredients.  This week’s Places We Love is dedicated to the joy of Farmers Markets in our neighborhoods.

As a child growing up in the city of Rochester, NY some of my most vivid memories were visits to the Rochester Public Market bright and early on Saturday mornings.  It was absolutely packed with people, full of the loud voices hawking goods and negotiating prices, a different powerful smell around every corner and the colors and varieties of foods were beautiful and endless.  In addition to the products, in every booth stood a group of infinitely fascinating people.

When you buy something from a Farmer’s Market you are most often buying something from someone who has a personal relationship with the product.  You want to know if their Grandfather originally planted the peach trees that created the fruit they are sharing with you.  You want to know if they have a rascally goat in their herd that turns out to be their best milk producer.  You want to know if they expect to get a good crop of berries this year with the rains we’ve had this season.  Farmers Markets facilitate connecting people with each other through one of our most basic needs, food.  It’s also a wonderful way to connect to your neighbors.

Narberth is ecstatic to welcome back a newly renovated Farmer’s Market.  In all of the articles I’ve read, the story begins by talking about the Lapp family.  They are not simply the owners, but they want to connect to the people of Narberth.  In talking with one of the market-goers, he shared with me that he and his wife work different hours and having the market allows them to have a home-cooked meal of chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans on a night when they wouldn’t have time to make it themselves.  It enhances their life almost as if the Lapp family themselves sent over a covered dish from their own family dinner table.

In addition to the ways Farmers Markets connect us to one another, they also connect us to place.  Farmers Markets are found in our own neighborhoods, in buildings near people such as Ardmore or Narberth’s Farmers Markets, or in public spaces that are often a sea of asphalt, such as in Bryn Mawr, Bala Cynwyd, and Overbrook.  To some extent, it dissolves some of the barriers between rural and suburban life.  It can create new understandings and appreciations.  Farmers also have a personal relationship with the earth that many of us don’t have.  We count on them to steward the earth and produce healthy food for our families in our stead.

Buying your food directly from the family that grew it is an investment in the future of our communities and our region.  Some reports indicate that as much as 90% of the money gained at a Farmers Market stays in the community. It allows us to invest in a space that serves our community in a positive way as well as take care of the fertile places in our region.

As we revel in the delights of a bountiful harvest, I encourage you to look for the Farmers Markets in your neighborhood in order to stock your pantry for the winter and holiday season.  It’s a great place for children to learn about where their food comes from and the people that bring it to us.  Your purchases are also investments in the nature of our community.  Happy shopping!

Patty Thompson is the Executive Director of the Lower Merion Conservancy.  She can be reached at patty@lmconservancy.org.


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