Ramblings from a modern regenerative agriculturist
It's almost time for the full blown market season to start! Well, some markets in bigger cities go year around, but for us in Downtown Texarkana, our market starts in April and ends by August. So, what are some things farmers wish they could explain to their shoppers? Well, there's a couple things, so here's a list, and I'll do my best to be brief:
- Please don't look at Farmers Markets like it's just "farm fresh" entertainment. Meaning, we see a lot of people who come out, look around, touch and smell and perhaps sample, talk to us about our products... and then walk away with zero purchases. I'm not saying you have to buy from every stand, or feel guilt tripped into a purchase! Not at all. However, we need people to treat markets like a grocery store. Yes, come and enjoy the atmosphere, but also spend a few bucks while you're here, so you won't HAVE to go to the supermarket the next day! A lot of people work really hard to make a market happen, we need your presence AND financial support!
- Try new things! Never bought a watermelon radish, or cooked with ham hocks before? You might have just found a new favorite! Don't be afraid to cook or use ingredients you're unfamiliar with. For us small growers, we don't exactly have the ability to ship our "less desirable" cuts of meat, or vegetables to other parts of the world to support a profit (Did you know today's industrial chicken market ships around 300,000 metric tons, or around 250 million dollars worth of chicken feet to China every year?) so by supporting whole animal butchery, or eating the less popular fruits that grow really well, you're supporting profitable small farmers and sustainable operations. The internet is a great source of ideas, as is the vendor you're buying from! Ask them for tips when taking home something unfamiliar.
- I encourage you to ask questions about what you're buying. Is it handmade? Who made it? Is it grown locally? Who grew it? Is this grown without the use of (state whatever chemicals or substances you try to avoid)? How should I cook this? Do you farm conventionally or organically? Do you raise your animals in natural environments? How are you growing this fruit/vegetable when it's not it's natural season? Your growers and makers can answer all of your questions and more. If they can't, it's usually because they're not the people actually making/growing the product. (Which isn't always a bad thing, but also a good thing to know)
- Please don't always try and cut a deal. Meaning, a lot farmers already do not make a living off their work. Most of the farmers and creators you meet at a market are just passionate about what they do, and find the work enjoyable and meaningful. Trust me, when we charge a a few dollars more than our supermarket counterparts, we are not getting rich, or trying to rip you off. However when our customers haggle us for a deal, or compare our prices to other vendors or even the supermarket, it makes us feel guilty for pricing our products at a price we need to get by, and makes us reconsider the worth of our laborious product.
- Give Feedback! Tell your favorite vendors what you love about their product! It's also important for you to let us know when our product didn't exceed your expectations. You're paying for quality, so that should be our number one concern. No one especially likes to hear it, but constructive criticism can be helpful for your favorite vendor in reading their markets and producing a quality product that makes for rave reviews. That's all I got for now, I want to end this by saying thank you so much for supporting your local markets! It's so important, for countless reasons, to keep these community based markets in operation.
That's all I got for now! THANK YOU for choosing to support your local farms and economy by shopping at your neighborhood market! It is so important in countless ways.
Let the fresh eating begin!
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