One of my favorite places to people watch is at the farmer’s market. There’s such a variety of people, from young families to old women using food stamps. The farmer’s have their own stories as well. Some farm full-time, others are helping their parents or grandparents, and some are doing it on the side to raise extra money. For this week’s photo challenge on humanity, I thought I’d share photos and tell stories of going to the farmer’s market.
My favorite boy toy and I have lived in a number of states. We’ve bought many of the staples no matter where we live – things like green beans, summer squash, potatoes, and beets. Yet each region has something that’s just a little better or more abundant.
Omaha had corn. When it came in, it was so cheap. My boy toy and I would buy 3 dozen ears a week to eat, because the season only lasted about six weeks. We mostly boiled it to eat with some butter and salt, but over time we also found some great recipes, like this corn, poblano & cheddar pizza or these corn custards. Both are worth the work to make at least once each summer. Omaha also had a woman who made beautiful pewter jewelry and I bought quite a bit of it to give as gifts.
We usually ate breakfast at the Omaha Farmer’s Market. Upstream Brewing Company was on the edge of the farmers market and had outdoor seating for their restaurant. There was often a crowd sitting there, enjoying grass-fed beef burgers with a pastry and some iced tea or coffee, all bought fresh just a few minutes ago.
St. Paul had one of the biggest farmer’s market I’d ever seen. It was all grown within 50 miles of the Twin Cities. I bought cranberries, all kinds of vintage apples and for the first time in my life, saw brussel sprouts on the stalk. This is currently my favorite recipe for brussel sprouts, but make a big batch as the recipe takes some time to prepare. And if you get greedy and buy too many apples, this is my favorite applesauce recipe. It’s fast and easy, especially if you use a food mill (you don’t need to take off the apple skins before you cook them). I cut the sugar down to 1/8 cup of brown sugar and substituted vanilla extract for the almond for taste preferences. I freeze to enjoy later in the winter.
I now live in Virginia. The peaches and blueberries are divine. I don’t cook them as they get eaten too quickly. The tomatoes are good here and much more abundant than in the Midwest. I can buy so many varieties at the farmer’s market, from heirloom to the latest fads in black tomatoes. I love making salsa crudo when I can, especially since I have such a bumper crop of basil on my back deck. It’s an Italian salsa and I use it on anything I can. If you’re worried about the raw garlic, roast it first and it will be much milder.
The dogs were welcomed in Omaha (nowhere else though). We used to take the Vizsla with us, mostly to get him out of the house and wear him out. Kids loved to pet him and he loved it too, especially after he discovered that if you smelled cookies, check the hands and see if you can’t grab a nibble. Oops. We had to really watch that one.
A different time, a woman in shorts walked by. He whipped around, planted his nose on her ankle and ran a trail of wet slime right up the back of her leg. She yelped and turned to see what it was. Thankfully he was cute enough that she didn’t get mad.
One of the great things about humanity is how they can surprise others with their generosity, from the parents who shrugged off a cookie disappearing to a canine thief, to the many people who petted my dog and talked to him. In the first paragraph, I mentioned the old women on food stamps. They weren’t the only ones in Omaha. There were also young mothers there with their food stamps. To their credit, many of the farmer’s had a soft spot for those using food stamps and would give them a few extra things in the bag.
It was also a good place for family support. We especially saw that in St. Paul, where young college women helped their grandparents, who didn’t speak English, to sell their vegetables. Sometimes grandma was in the back of the truck, sitting on a chair to get the produce ready to put on the table while the parents worked the table. We met farmers, their children and grandchildren from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds. We heard stories from why I farm to how I took over the family land. I enjoyed very much getting to know the people I bought from.
If you don’t go regularly to the farmer’s market, I encourage you to try it. I’ve been to big ones and small ones. They all have something worth going for and worth supporting your local growers. If you stop by to read this, leave me a message what you enjoy the most about going to your own farmer’s market.
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I am a backyard adventurer, philosopher and observer, recording my life in journals and photographs. Visit my blog at www.livingtheseasons.com.