Sunday, September 6, 2009

Take A Farmer's Market Expedition!

When was the last time you made an expedition to a Farmer's Market? They are fun to go to in your local area, but I enjoy them even more away from home, because I get to see fruits and vegetables that don't grow in the Ozarks. The Farmer's Market held weekly in front of the government buildings in San Francisco was especially memorable for unusual vegetables, many of them with Asian origins. The Fairbanks, Alaska, Farmer's Market is memorable for the SIZE of the vegetables---I saw cabbages there that were four times bigger than what we grow in the Ozarks. Then there was the Santa Barbara, California, Farmer's Market. It was different because it was held at night, with the organizers blocking off downtown streets, and there was the feeling of "Fiesta!" throughout the exhibitors. My latest expedition was to the Farmer's Market in Klamath Falls, Oregon---an area in Southern Oregon near the California border that is considered "high dessert" climate. Up until a few years ago, I only thought of Farmer's Markets as a colorful place to do photography. But then, my professional organization, The American Dietetic Association, started a big educational emphasis to get dietitians to encourage consumers to do more of their food shopping at Farmer's Markets. One result of their lobbying efforts was that arrangements were made to allow folks enrolled in WIC, or other government nutrition programs, to use their government vouchers at Farmer's Markets, as well as typical grocery stores. There were several reasons that the ADA was promoting Farmer's Markets. The one prediction that ADA made that I saw play out in the last few years was this: The nation's food distribution system during the 1990's was workable because it was based on the premise of inexpensive fuel costs, so shipping food from hundreds of miles away did not add significantly to the cost of the food. Produce at the big grocery stores was so low priced, local growers could not compete, and often just quit producing food locally. Hence, a few years ago, there weren't that many Farmer's Markets still flourishing the way that they had before mass transportation. However, just as the ADA predicted, fuel costs rose, and consequently the price of produce at the big grocery stores rose significantly. But since many local Farmer's Markets had shut down because of no business, consumers did not have any other options. Therefore, most places in the U.S. are still in a "rebuilding" process to get local Farmer's Markets flourishing the way they did in the first half of the twentieth century. Another reason for keeping your local farmers in business, is the potential for food shortages in the event of a national disaster. If nobody local is growing any food, then when a disaster strikes, causing disruption in the nation's food transportation system, many areas could go without food, because local farmers have quit growing produce.

Besides enjoying photographing the colorful foods at a Farmer's Market, I also like to photograph the colorful bouquets of flowers available, as well as the pretty customers taking the bouquets home with them. In this photo, three generations of beautiful ladies are as pretty as the blooms they are holding. A big thanks to Stacy, Kaylee, and Jan for doing their part to make the KF Farmer's Market a part of their shopping experience.
Besides meeting friends at a Farmer's Market, you can also meet the people who produced the product. It makes a meal that much more enjoyable when you have an idea of the effort that went into getting that item to your table.
Most Farmer's Markets have booths with items besides food---with craft booths being very common. In the upper left hand photo, a crafter displays the gourd that she turned into a piece of art after many hours of labor. The Klamath Falls Market, like many others, had live music, which adds to the festive atmosphere (upper right photo). And here's the thing I especially like about Farmer's Markets---they will cut up the produce and give you a sample taste. The lower right photo shows something I got to try for the first time---a "lemon-variety" cucumber. It was yummy, and illustrated Psalm 34:8 "..taste, and see that the Lord is good." SOOooo---get out there and TASTE! Miles of smiles! Tricia
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