Connecticut's Farmers Markets are in full swing. On the town greens in
Trumbull, Kent, Middletown, Danbury and New Milford, in downtown parking
lots in Greenwich, Shelton and Darien, at Grace Baptist church in Waterbury
and the Old State House in Hartford, the community center in Rowayton and a
playground in Bristol, on Wall Street in Bridgeport, Main Street in
Stamford, Orange Street in New Haven and at 48 other sites around
Connecticut, farmers and eaters come together to celebrate their mutual
dependence and to help sustain each other.
Just 12 years ago, there were fewer than 20 Farmers Markets in Connecticut.
This year, at 63 markets around the state, 183 farmers sell their fruits,
vegetables, herbs and flowers directly to consumers.
Local 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 and for a connection to
the seasonality of fruits and vegetables grown nearby.
Farmers Markets are an ancient, yet still very effective way to make these
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. Some markets started in May. All of them are open by now (when
the always-popular corn and tomatoes begin to ripen) and they keep going
well into the fall.
Farmers Markets allow growers and eaters to get to know each other. An
important part of many cultures around the world, they are growing in
popularity, not just in Connecticut, but all over the United States.
Farmers Markets are an almost pure example of the free-market system. They
are critical to a sustainable, local economy and are essential in order to
protect and preserve farms in our communities. If farmers here can't sell
what they grow, their farms will become subdivisions and strip malls, the
"Farmers Markets are very hot," says Rick Macsuga, the Connecticut
Department of Agriculture employee most responsible for the tremendous
growth in Farmers Markets in this state. He noted that while it used to be
hard to get some towns to accept the idea of having a market, now they come
to him requesting one. Some are even proposing permanent structures in
town to accommodate this local economic activity. However, more farmers
are needed to meet the demand.
The distribution sector of the food system has grown to take the lion's
share of the money we spend on food, 80 cents out of every dollar. The
food cartel has become so powerful that it can drive down the prices paid
to farmers and drive up consumer costs, while it takes advantage of as many
government subsidies and tax benefits as possible. Farmers Markets are one
of our most effective tools for altering this unsustainable situation.
Here, customers are interested in freshness and flavor. They crave a more
direct experience 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 and to learn more about growing methods.
On Tuesday afternoon, Suzanne and I took our garlic and flowers to the
market in Seymour. This is our fourth year there, and it was great to see
so many old friends and regular customers.
Here's a few tips for those shopping at a Farmers Market for the first
time. Visit all the farm displays first to see what's available. Ask
questions. Get some cooking ideas. When you shop early, you get the
biggest selection. Shopping late offers the best bargains. Many farmers
will take special orders.
A listing of the Farmers Markets in Connecticut is available from the
Connecticut Department of Agriculture, State Office Building, Hartford, CT
06106. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
Hope to see you soon at the Farmers Market!
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C)1999, 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 southern Connecticut and producing "Living on the
Earth" radio programs). 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. These essays first
appeared on WSHU, public radio from Fairfield, CT. New essays are posted
weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing and those since November 1995 are
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