Farmers Markets, while having a resurgence in the last 20 years; have in reality been around for as long as there have been farmers and villages! In Medieval times Farmers would bring their wares in to town to hawk. There probably would have been live as well as slaughtered animals, breads, fruits and produce, herbs eggs and fish. Then we got supermarkets (ok so there is quite a bit of history in between but work with me here) and convenience won over quality. We started to stop caring where our produce came from; buying fresh grapes, cherries and berries in the winter seems like a modern luxury, but when it's travelled from halfway around the world, on a flight most of US balk at - what really is the point? When was it picked? How was it handled? What kind treatments were used on it and the land it was grown in? What is the water quality like there?
What about the little guy?
I think another question we should be asking (and it's too easy not to care when you buy from a supermarket) is: Did the farmer who worked, sweated and fretted to get this produce to your table get a fair price? All too frequently the big conglomerate supermarkets, in order to keep prices low for the consumer, pay barely enough to cover costs. Their profit margin certainly isn't hurting (they have shareholders to keep happy after all). The only way for a farm to make a profit in this environment is to be large scale, so what happens to smaller farms? Farmers who farm quality, innovative produce but on a smaller scale? Thank goodness for Farmers Markets because this is where you will find their produce, and it's BEAUTIFUL! Not only that, you can talk to the person who grew it about how best to prepare it (they will have a passion for what they grow) and you KNOW that it isn't weeks and weeks old, it's probably come out of the ground or off the tree at the most a few days ago, but more likely this morning or yesterday.
Personally, after many years living in a high density urban environment, it's been a revelation coming back to the Waikato. A big part of that has been my discovery of the Waikato Farmers Markets. I love being there on Market Day, watching everyone go from stall to stall talking to the stall holder and filling their bag with beautiful produce. Families sit and have breakfast, kids are running around, there are no trolley wars, or big lines (and if we need to wait to be served we can usually do it patiently while chatting to our neighbour). And all in a beautiful setting. I think it's about taking a moment to slow down and appreciate the 'where' and 'who with' in our lives! I am excited to take this journey of discovery; learning about Farmers Markets, the principles that go hand in hand with them, and also meeting and learning the processes and philosophies of each of our stallholders. I do hope you will join me!