The Farmer’s Market

Was the tomato homegrown was the simple question I asked. The response was a snide “do you think I grew it indoors?” Admittedly, it’s mid April, and the high temperature today is 60 degrees. Not exactly outdoor garden season yet. But it led to further discussion about how the owner of the tomato liked her okra fresh, and not frozen.

Another silly question. Had she visited the farmer’s market to look for fresh okra? Same time of year, same weather, but yes, the farmer’s market is open. There are actually several near here, and I see them on Saturday morning. Maybe they grow stuff indoors.

Around here, as I suspect is true in other locales, farmer’s markets generally are stocked by micro farm operators who are heavily into organic growing methods. Farms operated by John Deere normally have larger outlets for their produce. But I remember a different kind of farmer’s market from my youth.

I grew up in a subdivision home. But behind my home was a 100-acre piece of farmland where the fields were always planted in feed corn. Around Halloween the tractors would be out late at night, running with the their lights on harvesting the annual crop. During the winter there would be stubby stalks left over. Come spring, the field would be plowed anew and replanted. And all of the growing season we would run through the fields, up and down the long rows between the tall stalks.

I don’t know what happened to this corn when it was harvested, but on any given weekend we could ride in to town to visit the farmers market. Big, long brick building dating from 1911. The Fairgrounds Farmer’s market. It had a concrete floor and was filled with farmers selling their wares. Fresh fruit and vegetables. Baked goods. Meats and poultry. A little of everything. There were some places, like the Country Store, that had permanent shops. I remember that place because there was a large old wooden barrel in the store. When you took the lid off you found that it was about half full of soda crackers. And a cat!

During the summer this was the only place to buy a watermelon. Sure, other places sold them, but it was sacrilege to get one anywhere else. Fresh off the farm! All of this stuff was. You could see the dirt on the vegetables. And the farmer’s hands. Everything smelled fresh. Rich smells. Earthy. And the farmers all spoke like Pennsylvania Dutchmen. Because they were.

That’s different from Amish. But here’s a quick and chuckle inducing story about Amish farmers. I ran the Philadelphia Marathon several years ago and after the race we went to the big farmers market in the city. The Reading Terminal Market. I saw some Amish girls selling vegetables, and talking on their cell phones! Modern stuff like that is allowed for business purposes I guess.

The farmer’s market from my youth still operates on the weekend but it’s been years and years and years since I’ve been there. The local farmers market has good produce, and baked goods and soaps and such, but it just isn’t the same as what I remember from my youth. Nothing ever is.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?


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