Raised on quality foods, many boomers lament the vanishing farmer

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When we were kids … here we go again, waxing nostalgic … a Farmer’s Market was just that. But not any more … not if you go where our Ranter-in-Residence Carrier Slocomb goes.

Say it ain’t so. Tell me I’m moving forward in this new millennium -– that I still see the big picture for what it is, digital, and not some dog-eared Polaroid from back in the day!

What’s my complaint? Farmers’ Markets -– how they’ve morphed from convenient roadside stands into ‘Boutique Marts.’

Carrier_cornFarmers’ Markets have been around for years; you probably have one in your area, but would you say you’re loyal to it? That you shop there because it’s an important alternative to grocery store food for you?

There are Farmers’ Markets in most major towns around where Caroline and I live. Even our neighbor city, Washington DC, has one, and it’s been blessed by nothing less than the White House.

Carrier Slocomb

Carrier Slocomb

Why have them? Is it to meet our local growers, sample their produce, and hope for something organic? Maybe they’re part-time farmers thinking of leaping into farming full-time, or you’ve seen their cheese on a taste-table at the health food co-op?

Okay, here are some more specific complaints: 1) Why do Farmers’ Markets run just four hours weekly, and 2) Why are their prices so high? Aren’t they supposed to be a vast improvement on the old road-side stand?

In my opinion they aren’t, yet we don’t know why. Caroline and I just returned from Amish country. You know the Amish, they make great farmers. Technologically, they’re tied to an earlier century; their Christian beliefs forbid them from “becoming too much of this world,” surely a great challenge when so much of our world whizzes by them in air-conditioned comfort.

Amish farm

Farm in Maryland.

Nevertheless, the Amish excel in one huge area -– growing — and selling delicious food on their farms.

Our little county has farms everywhere, but very few farm stands. Maybe in our ‘un-Amish’ rush to get ahead, farmers have forgotten what they excelled at and began selling food, although not as food but as products. In Amish land, most every farm sells food straight from the barns. Follow signs updriveways and you’ll discover low-priced produce, eggs, jams, root beer, and warm fluffy baked goods. You won’t make it home with your cooler lid down.

Carrier_pumpkinsThis begs the question: why don’t our farms feed us seven days a week instead of just one afternoon? We don’t go to the Farmers’ Market to sample candle aromas, to sign petitions, or to support some scout troop. We go to buy fresh local corn, zucchini, tomatoes, apples, and warm pies at prices convenient to our wallets. Seems farmers around here forgot that.

Carrier_eggsAhem, let’s be frank, sir. Your eggs are not gold nuggets, they’re eggs, and homemade soap for $6 a bar? Whose kitchen sink was it made in, the Queen of England’s? Farmers’ Markets go against all road-side stand common sense when they price goods high and only open infrequently.

Carrier_onionsFarmers forget that we must eat more than one day a week; that we like our produce picked daily and without the frills that drive prices up. You know, Farmers’ Markets could learn a bushel’s worth from Amish farm stands, and we could all eat a whole lot better than we do.

Carrier lives in rural Maryland.

5 Comments

  1. Here in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, we have local farm stands and farmer’s markets twice a week. Wednesdays and Saturdays. Most just Saturdays and in Glens Falls when the winter arrives it is held indoors in a local church. Sure they are open about the same as yours–four hours. But to ask for more days and hours kind of begs the question: If they are busy serving us at the farmers market who is taking care of the farm- the crops and the animals, not to mention baking the pies and breads we all love so much?

    1. True enough, Eric. Having worked a local community-sponsored agriculture farm, I remember how torn that farmer was on market days between being there to sell and the needs back at the farm. Perhaps Carrier raises another possibility for development — more local farmers once again selling directly from where they are, roadside-stand style. Of course, in certain locales, farmers have learned that customers don’t have time or means to come to them – that they have to go to where the buyers are (which involves costs and trade-offs). Then, too, the whole issue of actual source of crops, in organic vs, gmo/agribusiness growing is a factor in local farmers’ costs and decisions, too. As for how Boomers eat, I think many of are learning, if we hadn’t already, that the primary path to wellness is real, live, uncorrupted food, the kind that’s still got the sun’s energy in it. It’s not as if any branch of human knowledge over thousands of years has kept this a secret. But something is hard at work, for its own profit, to ensure it is increasingly difficult to do this in any “conventional” way. Wonder why that is ???

  2. I thought most boomers ate fish sticks, tuna salad sandwiches, and TV dinners — I thought that “eating fresh” had mostly gotten lost over the last few generations — that convenience was the thing. That many professionals considered “cooking” to be beneath them and that Martha Stewart’s role was to reacquaint the Silent Generation, the Boomers, and us Gen X with fresh ingredients and making things from scratch. It must be a regional, class, or city/rural thing. What do you think?

  3. I am curious why people in America are seemingly so complacent to accept artificial and genetically modified foods that are linked with so many health issues, such as diabetes.

    I remember another era when food was actually naturally grown in sunlight and in the earth on farms, not hot houses, and when meat products were not engorged on hormones and antibiotics to make them plumper.

    Today, it’s a constant quest to find food that is healthy and nutritious.

  4. Eric, Chris, and David — Thank you for your great replies and for your angles of argument on farming, markets, and food, however we define it now. Right David?

    There are nerves to be hit on this subject aren’t there? And the debate doesn’t stop here. I guess it does boil down to what each of us thinks food should be for the price being charged? Edible? Tasty? Fresh? Convenient? But right out of the earth is best; preferably within minutes of being picked. We can all tell the difference, can’t we? The closer to the food source the better.

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