Our town’s farmer’s market opened today. As I have ranted before, our town sits right on the edge of prime California agricultural land – but year after year, our farmer’s market has been sagging from ‘eh’ to ‘why bother’ all the way down to ‘definitely to be avoided at all costs, run! run for your LIFE!’ over the last few years.
Last year was particularly pathetic. The ‘trinket’ vendors outnumbered the food vendors, and what few food vendors there were had very little on offer. Also, the last time I went the Mary Kay lady literally chased me in the street waving eyeshadow and enthusing about how she could give me a free facial in less than five minutes and I would LOVE! it, guaranteed!
Not to be catty (she said, promptly being catty), but if her own makeup job was any indication, she and I are on polar opposites of the makeup-wearing scene. I’m a ‘less is more’ type, and she’s more of a ‘you cannot possibly have too much color on your face!’ type.
I fled as if Satan himself were right behind me. Actually, I fled faster. Because Satan, you know, has a way of having stuff I might actually want, like a fiddle I could use to rule Nashville, or a stock calculator that never missed. Granted, the price is a little too steep for my liking, but at least the merchandise itself isn’t terrifying. But this particular Mary Kay lady was going to try to sell me fuchsia lipstick and people – that is just plain wrong.
However, I digress.
This year we have a new sheriff in town. Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association has taken on my wee little town (probably out of pity) (or because the fact that our town calling what we had a ‘farmer’s market’ was dragging the name through toxic waste and needed to be stopped at all costs) and is managing the whole affair.
So I caught up my big canvass bag this morning and headed out the door, determined to risk the Crazy Mary Kay lady. After all, the PCFMA website says right on the homepage: PCFMA does not accept the sale of crafts, jewelry or other non-agricultural, non-food items in its markets.
I arrived right at opening and found a lot of friends and neighbors milling around eating fresh baked whatnots from local bakeries, drinking coffee, and listening to a group of kids playing jazz. The market is still tiny, taking up one city block with enough space to park a truck between each booth – but guess what?
Also, no Avon, no Tupperware, no lady-with-the-cheap-from-China-sequined-bags, no insurance salesmen, chiropractors, mortgage brokers shoving flyers up my nose. The only thing being shoved at me were samples of peaches and cherries, which hey – I can handle.
It’s still small. It still has large holes in what is available (no carrots anywhere in the market, for example, or artichokes, asparagus, or broccoli), but I could definitely have gotten plenty of variety to keep the household happy if I hadn’t just received a big old box from Planet Organics with sugar snap peas, green garlic, broccoli, carrots, etc. etc. etc.
And having the organic vendors is new. While I’m nowhere near the ‘organic or nothing’ level, I am finding that the organics simply taste better to me. More like what I remember when I was a kid – whether that’s simply due to freshness or really is the lack of chemical intervention, I don’t know.
One thing that I found particularly exciting was a lady selling eggs. Chicken eggs, sure – but also duck and quail eggs. And when I paused to chat with her about her business (I do that, because I am nosy), she told me that her animals are all free-range. This, she tells me, means that her eggs are sometimes more flavorful (read as, people think there’s something “wrong” with them because *gasp* they taste like something!) and sometimes less, and that occasionally people are frightened senseless by the sight of two yolks or upset because the whites aren’t pure white. And let’s not get started on the worry that speckled eggs are ‘spoiled’ or whether or not brown eggs come from, you know, chickens…
Heh. I’ve heard the same thing from the local meat market – people complain that the bacon doesn’t taste like ‘bacon’. Well, it does taste like bacon, which is the salted and/or smoked meat from the back and sides of a pig.
What it does not taste like is Oscar Meyer bacon, because these are local pigs who ate whatever was put in front of them – usually a combination of commercial feed and whatever was lying around the farm, from carrot tops to corn stalks. The meat market then has its own smoking and seasoning, not to be confused with the commercial same-same of Oscar Meyer.
But since the rather nasty conditions in which laying hens are kept are one of my very few eco-Nazi-hot-button-topics, I’m delighted to have a more chicken-friendly source of fresh eggs. Also, it is very cute to have a vendor who names her chickens and can tell which eggs came from what hen. “Oh, that’s Rosie, she’s been laying big eggs lately…”
So. To make a long story short (too late!)…progress! Our farmer’s market is small, but sassy! I’d love to see some cheese makers, and a little more variety would be nice (lots of cherries and strawberries, no asparagus, artichokes or broccoli); and I’d be ecstatic if we got an organic butcher into the act.
But compared to years past: FABULOUS. Very encouraging! I’ll be diverting my grocery money to the market as much as I can, and hope enough of my friends and neighbors do the same to make it appealing to the vendors we’re still missing.
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