In Disasters, a Smile is Worth a Thousand Words

      Posted On: September 10, 2011

By Stacy Miller, Executive Director

In walking home from my weekly pilgrimage to the Charlottesville City Market this morning, I reflected on what I was doing ten years ago.  I don’t do this every day, mind you, and you likely don’t, either. But who can help but reflect on the impact and aftermath of September 11th, 2001, especially given the media attention to the anniversary in recent weeks?

Ten years ago, I was working on a diverse certified organic farm where we grew and sold more heirloom varieties than I could keep track of, and made custom flower bouquets at farmers markets in the Washington, DC area.  The weekend after 9/11, I drove the van with some trepidation from the farm to the market site, which was located less than two miles from the Pentagon.  Many of my regular customers admitted that they had not left the house in five days, too confused and scared to venture out.  The farmers market, they said, was the only place they felt safe, and I watched as they sought comfort in conversation with neighbors about shared experiences.  Even those who seldom bought flowers seemed to gravitate towards them, relieved at their still-intact capacity to smile.

Quite honestly, these moments are what indelibly gifted me with the belief that farmers markets have an unparalleled role in our modern lives, in which so much often seems broken.  They are the glue that puts us back together– often in a new shape that’s stronger than before.

This weekend, farmers markets across the country are commemorating the anniversary of September 11th, 2001.  Meanwhile (only a couple weeks after the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina), many of those on the east coast are dealing with the fresh wounds of disaster: historic flooding from storms Irene and Lee that have damaged the homes and businesses of their patrons, and left many a farm scrambling to save animals and crops from potentially contaminated flood waters.  I’ve already heard of many examples of farmers markets and farm organizations responding rapidly to the needs of rural businesses, and connecting those in need with people willing to lend a hand.  While the new Dust Bowl of prolonged drought in places like Texas doesn’t garner the same media coverage as flash floods, our hearts are with these farmers, too.

My small memory of 9/11 at farmers markets is only one of thousands.  If you’d like to share a memory of your farmers market from ten years ago, or a description of this weekend’s 9/11 commemoration or flood response activities, please do so below.  I urge you to tell your story, however briefly, and, more than anything, be generous with your smiles this weekend.