The Joys of Farmers Markets

April 29, 2022

Happy Friday! We are one day away from market day. Being a farmer and selling at a market is a very old profession, and yet in many ways it feels like it hasn't changed much at all. Despite so many new ways of shopping: subscriptions, two-day delivery, one-stop online storefronts designed for efficiency at any human and environmental cost- all designed to increase consumption with ease and mindlessness, the farmers market persists! I love the farmers market and I could go on and on about the countless reasons why, but today I will settle on one.

On Tuesday I came home from getting my hair cut in the kitchen of a friend. She is an incredible haircutter and stylist, and as I bent over in front of her kitchen sink, she washed my hair with her dishes drying a few inches from my nose. I left her house with a bottle full of product she swears by, and that she simply and generously gifted me. We traded veggies for the cut. I met her at the farmers market.

I got home and looked in the mirror (to admire my fresh new locks) and realized my hair looked cute with the shirt I was wearing, my new favorite shirt. A shirt hand printed by my lovely friend Jenson at Sisterland who traded me strawberries for said shirt. I met them at the farmers market.

I then looked to my right where all my bathroom products lay scattered on a shelf. Each of them, I realized was made by someone locally. The deodorant I wear is handmade by a dear friend, Art, the owner of Colibri, (who sells her incredible products at the farmers market) and who I met last year when she bought a head of gorgeous butterhead lettuce from me and exclaimed: "You are an artist!" (We've been friends ever since.) And after years of trying to convince Andy to use a moisturizer, he finally found one he likes: the Douglas Fir Oil made by our new friends at Good Green Earth. We met them at the farmers market.

I went on a run last week with that friend Art and saw two people I know, both who I met because they are regulars at the farmers market.

And lastly, for now - yesterday I temporarily lost my sweet kitten, Bruce in the parking lot of Country Aire. It sounds strange, I realize, but Bruce loves to take rides in the car, and yesterday he hopped out without realizing where he was. As I searched and searched, my neighbor Gail came down to help. She owns Acadia farm and I met her at the farmers market. When I finally found Bruce, I shouted: "MY CAT! THAT'S MY CAT!" and ran to grab him. From atop the ramp at the top of the bluff appeared my friend EJ who said, "I thought that was you Melissa, I'm so happy you found your cat!" And we chatted for a while. I met her through the farmers market as well.

Do you see what in-person commerce can do for a community? Every friend I have here in town (besides my family) I have met in some way through the market. True connection is built in personal interactions, especially the ones who you have to keep showing up for. I could create a sweet metaphor about the quilt that is stitched from community, but I don't need to because I literally dress myself, bathe myself, feed myself, and fulfill myself with the people and products of my community, all who I have met because we consistently show up to sell our wares and shop together.

This is not a short essay on responsible consumerism, although I have opinions about that, it is simply about the joy and fulfillment gained from showing up consistently to shop with and from the real members of your community. There are real, hard facts that should convince you to shop locally: about dollars kept in your county, decreased carbon footprint, the positive impact on workers' rights and conditions, and more. But I am only writing this today to impress upon you how lucky and grateful I am for the people in my life here in PA, 99% of who I have, quite literally, met at the farmers market. People who collectively show up for each other despite differences and people who, because of our weekly interactions, have shared dreams and goals.

All of this may have you cringing. Perhaps you are an introvert (I don't agree with the binary, but I totally identify with needing alone time to recharge), or perhaps you hate the vulnerability that comes with that kind of exposure (believe me, everything about being a public business owner still terrifies me), but imagine a community that met together in a public space weekly. Imagine the ideas we could share, the relationships we could build, the differences we could discuss and overcome, and the work we could do. This is not a simple plea for more people to shop locally or to come have fun at the market. But I guess, ultimately it is just that, because I truly believe that the simple act has huge potential. The more people who show up in this public space, the more voices we hear, the more compassion we learn, and the better for all of us, personally and as a whole.