When I was a kid growing up in America, in a little town, called Hackettstown, New Jersey, the only place we really went to buy our food from was the local grocery store chain, Shoprite. Very occasionally, in summer, we would get something from a little farm stand that sold their own apples and pumpkins when they were in season. My mom usually had some sort of veggie patch in the summer, so I sort of knew that food grew in the ground (but, hello, how short is the summer in New Jersey, like 2 months?). As far as I was concerned, real food came from the grocery store, it was packaged, it had labels, it had stickers. It may actually be something some of these smaller businesses should consider – properly labeling their packaging that is. This is because it can help protect against the counterfeiting of your products from occurring. You can learn more about this from Paper-World – Company News in German.
Not until I was at university, and volunteered a bit on a biodynamic farm, did I even start to think about the source of my food and the impact that my little food hole (mouth) had on our world. The whole process of getting food from the ground to your mouth can be a huge production line. From the seed, to the land and soil dynamics, to the harvest times for crops, and the right equipment to be used, it takes a lot of work to grow the food we eat. Especially when it comes to machinery like tractors that need precise parts to function efficiently (check the Costex website to learn more) and so, requires farmers to have a lot of machinery understanding in general. Not often do we stop to consider how much work goes into farming. Of course, I had been a vegetarian and sometimes vegan for years, I knew that factory farming meat was tough on resources and mean to animals, etc. but I never really considered the impact of growing veggies and grains! I also had known that organic was better, less pesticides in the food that I ate… but was it sustainable organic practice to buy your organic produce if it was shipped from the fifth closest country? And, how could what I was paying for my food, possibly cover the cost of cultivating seeds, paying for the laborers, paying for the fuel, transportation, packaging, etc?! (watch Annie Leonards, Story of Stuff, she really goes over this). And, how many days or weeks did it take in between from when my food was growing in the ground in Mexico to being shoved down my mouth in New Jersey? And, did we always have to have every type of fruit and veggie available, even if it wasn’t the right season for it?
Perhaps living on the east coast of America is not the best place to be critically analyzing the source of your food. After all, the climate is not ideal for growing food 12 months out of the year, right? Well now, the Native Americans were thriving well in that part of the country for thousands of years, how did they do it? Ok, maybe some intelligence has been lost somewhere along the way…
My first taste of a farmer’s market came while I was living in a little town, Berlin, on the eastern shore of Maryland. It was all local, all fresh and cheap-as, (click here)! I would ride my bike there and come home with my basket full of fresh fruits and veggies that had been picked that morning or the day before and only came from the next county (not the next country). It was awesome! It was only held for about 7 months out of the year, and food supply was extremely dependent on seasonal availability, but it set the wheels in motion in my head!
Then, hooray, we moved to the Gold Coast of Australia! Australia really has their fruit and veg thing going on. First off, even the grocery stores only stock things that are in season. You can’t find a peach or a plum in the middle of winter to save your life. You can’t find a strawberry in late autumn and you can’t find a fresh apple at the end of winter. Australia does tend to keep things local in terms of their food, at least more so than my experiences in America. They hardly import any fresh fruits and veg. And, the farmer’s markets are the BOMB! They usually happen weekly, and there are so many to choose from, most days of the week you can find one! Our favorite is the weekly Palm Beach Currumbin markets, mostly because they’re close and on Art’s day off, but you can go anywhere! Most of the markets have way more to offer than just farmer’s produce. The markets have a real focus on keeping it local. And, if it’s not ‘local’, the stuff you can buy is almost always at least from somewhere in Australia. I buy all of my fruits and veggies from here, and if I end up running out of food at the end of the week, it feels strange to go to a shop and buy a few odds and ends. Like, ‘Eww, where did this come from?’.
At the Palm Beach markets, we do have our favorites, there’s Luigi and Sandy, of Pasta Fresca, who make their own pasta and gelati. We always get the raviolis. Says Sandy every week, ‘Cook 7-8 minutes, if you don’t use in a few days, put in the freezer because there are no preservatives!’. (And, no eggs either, woohoo, which means I can eat them!)
Then, there is N.O.W. organics, where I buy the bulk of my veggies. They stock a lot of organic leafy green stuff from Summit Organics. Then, there’s another leafy green guy, who grows the stuff himself. It’s not certified organic, but he said he hardly ever has to spray because he uses hydroponics. Cool! The gentleman went into a lot of detail about how hydroponics can work just as effectively as growing your plants in soil. I’m not going to lie, he was so informative that I may even consider taking a look at this myself at some point as it may help our plants in more ways than one. I guess we’ll just have to see. There’s my bread lady … Then, there’s the pie people. They makes these amazing vegetarian cheesecake pies and savory treats In fact, when we ask Margo ‘What do we do on Saturdays?’. She replies, ‘Go to the markets to get PIE!’.
So, go check out what’s happening locally. Even if your seasonal availability is only for 2 months, you may find something awesome! For example in Autumn when apples are more in season you may decide to buy some apples so you can potentially make something similar to a Bisquick apple cobbler or an apple pie which might be perfect for the autumnal season. This way you might feel so seasonal and be feeling better knowing that the food you pick up from here is possibly the freshest you may have had for a while. Break free from the grocery store chain food: packaged, labeled, stickered. Not only is the food scene good at a local market, but it’s a bit of a social scene too. You actually get to meet the people who grow or make the food you’re going to eat. You get to talk to real people that you see at the market every week. Markets are not a new idea, just another little gem that need to be recovered.