How I fell in love with farmers markets

      Posted On: May 9, 2012

Dear friends,

In the winter of 2005, I was living in Brooklyn and working as a chef in Manhattan. Each morning I took the train from my Park Slope apartment, under the East River to the Union Square stop. Emerging from the underground, I would step into the Union Square Greenmarket and delight in the sights, sounds, textures and aromas of the just-starting market day. Often, the vendors’ trucks were still rumbling into their market spaces and others were busy piling tables with mountains of fresh produce.

The Union Square Farmers Market in the early morning quickly became a favorite and anticipated respite from my work day in the windowless basement kitchens of New York.  As I looked across the market to see tables laden with kale, spinach, carrots, and potatoes my mind would re-create the open spaces from whence they came. My nose would pick up the scent of freshly tilled earth and I could just see the sky and the dew and the frost and feel the labors of their arrival to this city’s center. My heart would swell and I would start my day feeling refreshed, resolving to better respect the ingredients procured at the restaurant and to treat them with care.

Within a few months I was compelled to ask the Market Manager, with whom I had become familiar, if the Greenmarket ever hired additional managers. That spring I was hired to manage the Tribeca and Borough Hall Markets and work as a part of the team at my favorite, Union Square.

Since that time I have gone on to become the full time Market Manager of Portland Farmers Market in Portland, Oregon. Each market day, I am reminded of why I fell for farmers markets in the first place. Some of my favorite market scenes take place even before the market opens: vendors unloading their trucks, early shoppers and chefs looking over produce in anticipation of our opening bell, a rancher with a whole spring lamb slung over his shoulder, vendors lending a hand for late arriving neighbors, the eight year old daughter of a flower grower delivering a monstrous bouquet, seemingly larger than herself, to our market info booth…and the list goes on.

Farmers markets are vital to small family farms, many of whom rely on farm direct sales as their main source of income.  As popularity of farmers markets grows, consumers are beginning to demand locally sourced and produced food in other outlets, too. Chefs and grocers large and small have begun to seek out local, seasonal produce and proudly feature farms’ names on their menus and in their aisles. These connections create an important economy of scale for the growers, many of whom are capable of producing more than they can sell at the markets they attend. In some cases, growers use the time spent in town to send a large deliveries to restaurants, groceries, and wholesale distribution points, thus making the day at market that much more profitable.

This winter I proudly became a Board Member with the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC), where I serve as Co-Chair of the Fundraising and Development Committee. Earlier this month, we began our annual fundraising campaign, with a goal of reaching $20,000 dollars by our sixth birthday on June 6, 2012. This goal is modest but absolutely critical for us to continue and improve our educational resources in the new fiscal year.  We need your help. FMC’s staff and volunteers work tirelessly to provide support tools and advocacy for farmers and farmers markets and its annual campaign allows FMC to keep markets connected, respond to their needs, and give them opportunities to have a say in public policy.

Many of you are already members of FMC, and for that I thank you. Your belief and support is greatly appreciated, and critical to its continued success. However, in order for us to reach our fundraising goal, we ask that each of you send these ripples out into your community in order to help build a strong coalition of like minded local food supporters.

As a special gift during this week of the campaign, we are offering Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough’s Bi-Rite Market cookbook, Eat Good Food, a Grocers Guide to Shopping, Cooking and Creating Community Through Food, to the first ten donors to pledge $50 or more.  Sam has taken local food purchasing and education into his family’s neighborhood grocery, another link in the local food chain done exceptionally well. The book features photos, recipes, and tips for shopping more sustainably– anywhere.

Click here to make a donation today

I am a big lover of food, and consider it an honor to have spent the majority of my career with my sleeves rolled up, working directly to get it to people. Farmers markets are an incredibly important place for the families that work so hard to bring fresh, local food to their communities. I give my time and resources to FMC because I want a strong voice for farmers’ markets, and believe in their integral role in building a national local food movement.

I hope that you will join me, and make an investment in the Farmers Market Coalition today. Thanks in advance for your support!

Jaret Foster
Senior Market Manager, Portland Farmers Market
Co-Chair, Fundraising & Development Committee, Farmers Market Coalition