On the town green in Trumbull, Kent, Middletown, Danbury and New Milford, in
downtown parking lots in Greenwich, Shelton and Seymour, at Grace Baptist church
in Waterbury and St. Michael's church in Naugatuck, at a school in Weston, the
town hall in Thomaston and a playground in Bristol, on Wall Street in
Bridgeport, Main Street in Stamford, and Orange Street in New Haven and at 36
other sites around Connecticut, farmers and eaters come together to celebrate
their mutual dependence and to help sustain each other.
Farmers need people to buy and eat the food they grow-to appreciate the flowers
and enjoy the herbs. Everyone who eats needs farmers. Many of us yearn for the
real flavor of fresh local produce, for a connection to the seasonality of local
fruits and vegetables and to the soil.
Farmers markets are an old and still very effective way to make those
connections. Held at a regular time and place, usually once a week, local
farmers set up displays of their produce in these "sell-only-what-you-grow"
markets supervised by the Department of Agriculture and local health districts.
One-hundred-and-sixty-five Connecticut farms sell at these markets around the
state. Some of them open in May. All of them are open by July when corn and
tomatoes begin ripening, and stay open well into the fall.
Farmers markets traditionally allow growers and eaters to get to know each
other. They are an important part of many cultures around the world and are
growing in popularity, not just in Connecticut, but all over the United States.
Farmers markets are a nearly pure example of a free-market system. When
Communism fell in the former Soviet Union, the new opportunity to sell their
produce at farmers markets was welcomed warmly by small farmers there.
The number of markets in Connecticut is increasing steadily. Last year there
were 40. Just last week the 50th market opened on Main Street in Beacon Falls.
It was organized by several mothers who really liked shopping with their
children at the Seymour Farmers Market last summer and thought that a market
closer to home on Friday afternoon would be great. After a winter of making
arrangements with the town and with the state, finding a site, and with somewhat
more difficulty, finding enough nearby farmers willing and able to sell at the
market, the organizers launched it with a very successful opening celebration.
The Seymour Farmers market was started just last year by the local business
revitalization council in an effort to bring people back to the downtown. Some
other markets in the state are old and well-established. All the markets are an
important element in the local economic system and one of the best ways of
protecting and preserving farms in our communities.
As nearby supermarkets have been transferred from local to regional to global
ownership in the last year, they were no longer interested in buying from local
farmers. If farmers can't sell what they grow, their farms will become
subdivisions and strip malls.
The global supermarket system of selling produce demands very large quantities
of low cost, always-available fruits and vegetables. This system requires very
large farms that use a lot of toxic sprays and machinery, and take advantage of
numerous government and environmental subsidies in order to lower their
The customers at the farmers markets, on the other hand, are more interested in
freshness and flavor. They crave an experience that is more direct than that
provided by supermarket produce that's traveled all the way from Chile or
California. They like being able to talk to the farmers, to ask about
varieties, to learn about farmers' growing methods.
This year, Suzanne and I are taking produce from our farm to farmers markets in
two nearby towns . Market day always involves lots of harvesting, cleaning and
preparation. Bright pink and creamy yellow new potatoes are dug from the dark
soil and washed. We pull up garlic, carrots and onions, cut a wide variety of
fresh greens, herbs and colorful flowers. We pick berries and peas. Some
farmers are already harvesting corn, tomatoes, summer squash and beans. Others
will be picking these soon.
A listing of the Farmers Markets in Connecticut is available from the CT
Department of Agriculture, State Office Building, Hartford, CT 06106. Enclose a
self-addressed, stamped envelope.
See you at the Farmers Market!
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
C1996, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT certified
organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban agriculture
projects in New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and Norwalk, CT). Their collection
of essays Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful
Future is available from Bill Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14
postpaid. This essay first appeared on WSHU, public radio from Fairfield, CT.
New essays are posted weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing