The Magic of Farmers’ Markets

The local farmer’s market offers patrons fresh, seasonal foods and a feeling of community that is often lacking at large supermarkets.


| September 2013



Various vegetables at a market

Lower-income women, infants and children, and seniors, all of whom may be nutritionally at risk, can participate in the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), established by the USDA in 1992.

Photo By Fotolia/poladamonte

Keith Stewart, already in his early forties and discontent with New York’s corporate grind, moved upstate and started a one-man organic farm in 1986. Today, having surmounted the seemingly endless challenges to succeeding as an organic farmer, Keith employs seven to eight seasonal interns and provides 100 varieties of fresh produce to the shoppers and chefs who flock twice weekly, May to December, to his stand at Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan — the only place where his produce is sold. It’s a Long Road to a Tomato (The Experiment, 2010), opens a window into the world of Keith’s Farm, with essays on Keith’s development as a farmer, the nuts and bolts of organic farming for an urban market, farm animals domestic and wild, and the political, social, and environmental issues relevant to agriculture today — and their impact on all of us. The excerpt below comes from the section, “Buy It at the Farmers’ Market.”

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: It’s a Long Road to a Tomato.

Picture this scene: a crisp, clear morning in early fall; a line of trucks and hastily erected canopies; men and women, their sleeves rolled up, unloading trays of bread, boxes of jams and cheeses, setting up displays of vegetables, fruits, flowers, even fish. Baskets overflowing with shining black eggplants, crates of red and yellow tomatoes, heaps of broccoli, cauliflower, green and golden squash, peppers of all colors and shapes, carrots that don’t look like they all came out of a mold, potatoes with the dirt of the field still on them. Where else, but at a farmers’ market, is nature’s bounty so evident, so proudly on display?

Where else can you be seduced by the fragrance of fresh-cut basil, bunches of sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, dill, oregano, and herbs even more exotic than these? When did you last see shoppers in a supermarket bending over to smell the produce? At farmers’ markets you see this all the time, because the scent of freshness is still there to be inhaled and enjoyed.

Where else can you find people engaged in commerce and so evidently enjoying it — the small talk, the jokes, the laughter, the exchange of recipes and advice, the feeling of community, the happy confluence of seller and buyer, grower and eater? Farmers’ markets have come a long way since John McPhee wrote his vivid essay, “Giving Good Weight,” on the early days of the Greenmarket in New York City, but his description of the flow of the crowd still holds true today:

“There is a rhythm in the crowd, in the stopping, the selecting, the moving on — the time unconsciously budgeted to assess one farm against another, to convict a tomato, to choose a peach.”





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