It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m in Seattle visiting my brother David and sister-in-law Mandy and their beautiful newborn girl Olympia Opal. She’s a mellow baby who seems content for the most part. It’s wonderful to hold her and I love the smell of little babies, don’t you? Yesterday morning we headed out to shop at University Farmer’s Market in Seattle, one of many around the city. Even in the rain it was a full, vibrant market. People were friendly and vendors enthusiastic to talk about their growing methods and products. I had the feeling I was around good folk on my first day in town. When I mentioned my involvement with Gossett’s Farmer’s Market back in New York, I got more stories and samples and people asking questions about seasonal production and was generally given a huge, warm welcome. Several
vendors said they looked forward to seeing me today at Ballard Farmer’s Market on another side of town.
David and Mandy kept asking what we wanted to do, and were really surpised when Anna, my 16 year old side-kick also looked forward to going to the market. She said that’s where she always meets friendly, down-to-earth people, or as she put it “real people, and sometimes hippies.” She has great memories of the farmer’s markets wherever she travels, like in Boulder, CO, at Union Square in NYC, in Woodstock, NY, in San Francisco, even in London, and of course she hangs out at the market back home in South Salem.
Besides all the foods we got that we feel good about, we got to connect with the heart of the community. I feel like I know a lot more about this town after being to two markets the first two days. I see that they take sustainability seriously here, perhaps more so than anywhere we’ve been. I was impressed to find that every vendor at the University market was either certified organic or using sustainable production methods. There were no plastic bags at the check out area, and people looked like they were buying a full week’s worth of produce, meats, cheeses and condiments. At Ballard Market, several blocks were closed off for the Sunday market, showing me that the community puts it’s support behind the market. Shops were all open and people wandered between the market, the restaurants and stores. Families were out in full force, the market is obviously an important piece of the local community. People were talking and shopping and wholeheartedly interested in their neighbors and community. I had a great conversation with a Kombucha maker, Chris Joyner. I asked him if there was another way to grow kombucha besides on sugar and he inquired why. I mentioned briefly some issues around the sugar trade and he asked for more info. I told him about a book, Sugar Blues and he asked me to email it to him because he’d like to educate himself about the issue. Anna got a huge back of organic apples (yes, it IS possible to grow organic apples in New England contrary to what some producers might tell you).
I asked one shop owner who had baked goods what they thought of the market, if it competed with their food sales. They said the market is part of what makes their neighborhood so vibrant and that it brings them business. Wow. Small towns like Katonah, NY: listen up! This is one more reason to support a farmer’s market in the heart of your town. It’s not competition for local stores, and it’s not a traffic headache, it’s about creating a vibrant sense of community, which in the long run benefits the whole town.
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