Letter from the board: Anticipating a New Farmers Market Season

      Posted On: April 15, 2009

Well, T.S. Eliot might think that April is the cruelest month, but as my wife Linda and I emerge from what seems to have been one of the longest winters in history, opening day at the Meridian Township Farmers Market is one of the bright spots on our calendar! What a joy it is to look forward to seeing what varieties of tomato transplants Pooh or Steve might have for our own small backyard garden. Then there are Margie’s new fresh salad greens and Rebecca’s early spring vegetables. And the grandkids tell us that they are already looking forward to their weekly visit to the market’s swing sets and play area when they come to visit in July.

In these days when we’re all pre-occupied with “the market,” there’s a real feeling of being grounded when we think about the ‘place’ (both physical and emotional) our farmers market occupies. Our visits are always so much more than transactions – they are about re-connecting our lives through food – food from the people where we live, our place. In a day of standardized products and depersonalized relationships, isn’t it deeply satisfying to see the natural diversity in the shapes and sizes of fresh produce? To have the conversation be as important as the actual purchase, and to once again visit with neighbors and acquaintances, most of whom have also stayed pretty close to home over the winter months?

It’s also exciting to think that farmers markets around the country are entering the mainstream. Yesterday our local film festival featured, “Fresh,” a new film that offers an instructive and inspiring perspective on the “burgeoning movement of farmers…who are actively re-thinking the approaches to raising and distributing food.” And as I draft this short note, the lead business section in today’s New York Times asks, “Is a Food Revolution Now in Season?” while Mark Bittman writes about “eating food that’s better for you.”

But we all also know how critically important it will be for us to work together in creating opportunities from the many challenges we currently face. As the lines lengthen in front of our food banks, how can our local farmers markets improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables? Equally important, what steps can we take to prevent national pre-emption of local and sound food safety standards and practices in each of our farmers markets? In the absence of a public discussion that questions the assumptions of our country’s industrialized food production, processing and distribution system, food safety is emerging as a defining issue in food policy. As the letter sent to our members last month (and reprinted in this newsletter) states, with proactive and localized attention to food safety in our farmers markets, we simply do not need or desire “one-size-fits-all” policies.

Farmers markets benefit significantly in the 2008 Farm Bill. New policies and people now embrace our dreams. Indeed, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. But this is the time to be audacious. This is our Spring – our time of renewed hope, of celebration and new beginnings!

As e.e. cummings put it, it’s spring and “the world is mud-luscious…
and puddle-wonderful.” Enjoy!