This past Saturday morning, my boys and I were up and out the door early. We had a morning date planned. We were headed to the local donut shop for a treat of donuts and milk for them while the donuts were still fresh and a big steaming cup of coffee for me. Of course they got the rainbow sprinkles (what kid can resist rainbow sprinkles on anything?). How I love a $3 date with my boys!
Then we headed down the road to check out our town’s Farmer’s Market in the park. Last year we moved to a town of about 30,000 (which includes the outlier areas) so it’s definitely no metropolis. We actually are the largest town for about 75 miles in any given direction (over 200 if you go north!). We’d been given advice to get to the Farmer’s Market early since their aren’t a ton of vendors and, at the very least, to be there when they are allowed to start selling. We pulled in right on time. I was amazed at the number of vehicles amassed in the parking area near the little park. The boys were excited. My oldest was practically bouncing up and down to be able to buy food from real live farmers (he, of course, doesn’t remember trips to Farmer’s Markets we’d made when he was younger and we lived in another town that was chock full of them and I think he was thinking along the lines of Old MacDonald). My littlest was just happy to be outside on an already hot desert morning in his new shoes toddling along and fascinated by his own feet and the gravel beneath them. On occasion he would look up and grin big and wave a frantic toddler style hello to the cars still driving in or the people around us heading to the same destination we were. We made our way to the small grouping of vendors set up beneath the blessing of shade from old, full trees and assessed where we should start. There were maybe ten vendors in all, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely offering considering the arid environment we live in. I spotted a man selling beautiful, enormous heads of lettuce and a lovely selection of beets and headed in his direction. The lettuce was so pretty that I didn’t bother asking what kind. It was $1.50 for the head and far larger and more healthy looking than the plants offered in our grocery store for about the same price. I pointed and said “I’ll take that one please! And tell me more about your beets.” He had two varieties and explained the benefits and drawbacks of both. I let my five year old choose the bunch he wanted and in the bag they went. I happily exchanged my money for the produce and headed to the next vendor. I went on to buy a swiss chard, the biggest zucchini squash I’ve ever seen which has an excellent future as zucchini bread, fresh sage, a small bunch of sunflowers and purple bell peppers. I would have bought a dozen fresh eggs but a friendly woman managed to zip them out from under me while I was happily chatting with the seller who was telling me that the squash I was buying from her was so big because of recent rains but that they were still excellent and agreed with me on my assessment that it would make good zucchini bread. I had some eggs left at home, so the seller, the lady who actually got the fresh hen eggs and I laughed about my poor timing and agreed we’d try again Wednesday evening for fresh eggs. The seller went on to apologize that she had no more eggs on hand and told me how her hens slow down considerably when it is hot. My children were at my feet picking grass and watching the exchange keenly. Suddenly my son exclaimed “Hey Mom! There’s a kid pulling a kid!” and we all turned in time to see a little boy leading a young and defiant goat on a rope. We laughed. We had our bag full of produce and took one more pass through to look at the offerings of handmade aprons, pottery, and blown glass.
When we got in the car to head home the whole car smelled of sage which transported me almost instantly to my childhood and the smell of summer and the creeks and rivers near where I grew up. Both my children were content in their car seats. My five year old asked where the real farmers were. I told him that the people selling us what we just bought were the real farmers. He smiled. He said, “Really? They looked like regular people.” I said, “They are.” He said, “Mom, someday when we have a farm can we have a goat so I can be a kid pulling a kid?” I smiled. I said, “If we someday have a farm, sure.”
All told, I spent about $12 at the Farmer’s market. Did I get the variety of produce that is usually available to me at my local grocery store? No. But I did get a good price for a good product. And we got so much more. We got the opportunity to connect: With our community, with our food and with our place in the world. We learned things (like how one of the regular customers is more interested in the beet greens than the beets so she chose her bunch based on the leaves. It inspired me to find a recipe for beet greens to go with dinner that night. And my children loved them). We weren’t on autopilot. We were present in the moment and it was joyful. It was busy but everyone was friendly, happy, and conversational. There was no long line to wait in. There were no magazines to tempt me or candy at eye level for my children to plead for. Some of the items may have been a little more expensive than what I would have paid in the supermarket, sure. But my money went straight into the pocket of the people doing the hard work and I really love that. I liked looking in their eyes and appreciating their contribution to the world. I liked learning something from them. I liked shaking their hand as I handed them my money and I liked realizing how utterly simple and unprocessed my food was when I brought it home and laid it out on the counter with the dirt still falling off the leaves and roots. Sometimes budget friendly intersects beautifully with bringing an unexpected bounty of experience. When was the last time you saw a kid pulling a kid in your local Walmart? On second thought…maybe I shouldn’t ask that.
If you haven’t checked out your local Farmer’s Market this summer, please do. Go meet the people who grow your food. Sometimes they’ll throw in an extra sunflower for free just because they are kind. Go shake their hands and look them in the eye. Buy cookies or bread from someone who puts their heart into it (unless you make your own like I do, of course). It’s a glorious experience. Even if you don’t buy much, it’s budget friendly frugal fun.
Join me tomorrow for my list of what we did and some fun new things we learned about what to do with our Farmer’s Market bounty!
Do you go to your local Farmer’s Market? What is your favorite thing about it?