Connecticut's Farmers Markets are just about in full swing. On the town greens in Trumbull, Kent, Middletown, Danbury and New Milford, in downtown parking lots in Greenwich, Shelton and Seymour, at Grace Baptist church in Waterbury and St. Michael's church in Naugatuck, at a school in Weston, the town hall in Thomaston and a playground in Bristol, on Wall Street in Bridgeport, Main Street in Stamford, Orange Street in New Haven, and at 38 other sites around Connecticut, farmers and eaters come together to celebrate their mutual dependence and to help sustain each other.
Just ten years ago, there were fewer than 20 Farmers Markets in Connecticut. This year, at 54 markets around the state, 175 farmers sell their fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers directly to consumers.
Local farmers need people to buy and eat the food they grow-to appreciate the flowers and enjoy the herbs. Everyone who eats needs farmers. Many of us yearn for the real flavor of fresh local produce, for connections to the seasonality of fruits and vegetables grown nearby and to the soil.
Farmers Markets are an old, yet still very effective way to make these connections. Held at a regular time and place, usually once a week, local farmers set up displays of their produce in these "sell-only-what-you-grow" markets, supervised by the Department of Agriculture and local health districts. Some markets started in May. All of them are open in July when corn and tomatoes begin ripening. They stay open well into the fall.
Farmers Markets allow growers and eaters to get to know each other. An important part of many cultures around the world, they are growing in popularity, not just in Connecticut, but all over the United States. Farmers markets are a nearly pure example of the free-market system. In fact, when Communism fell in the former Soviet Union, the new opportunity to sell produce at farmers markets was welcomed warmly by small farmers there.
If farmers here can't sell what they grow, their farms will become subdivisions and strip malls. Farmers Markets are critical to a sustainable, local economic system and are essential in order to protect and preserve farms in our communities.
Just recently, when nearby supermarkets changed from local to regional to global ownership in a matter of months, they were no longer interested in buying from local farmers. The global supermarket system of selling produce demands very large quantities of low cost, always-available fruits and vegetables. This system requires huge farms that use lots of toxic sprays, and expensive machinery, numerous government and environmental subsidies and now genetically engineered seeds in order to lower production costs.
The distribution sector of the food system has grown to take the lion's share of the money we spend on food, 80 cents of every dollar. This sector has become so powerful that it can drive down the prices paid to farmers and drive up consumer costs, while it too takes advantage of as many subsidies and tax benefits as possible. Farmers Markets are one of our most effective tools for altering this situation.
Here, customers are more interested in freshness and flavor. They crave a more direct experience than that provided by supermarket produce that's traveled all the way from Chile or California. They like being able to talk to the farmers, to ask about varieties and to learn more about farmers' growing methods.
This year, Suzanne and I are taking produce from our farm to farmers markets in Seymour and Beacon Falls. Market day always involves lots of harvesting, cleaning and preparation. Bright pink and creamy yellow new potatoes are dug from the dark soil and washed. We pull up garlic, carrots and onions, cut a wide variety of fresh greens, herbs and colorful flowers. We pick berries and peas. Some farmers are already harvesting corn, tomatoes, summer squash and beans. Others will be picking these soon.
A listing of the Farmers Markets in Connecticut is available from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, State Office Building, Hartford, CT 06106. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
Web site: http://www.state.ct.us/doag/spefdass.htm
See you soon at the Farmers Market!
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth.
This page and its contents are copyright © 1997 by WSHU-FM, Fairfield, CT, and by Bill Duesing.