Farmer’s market

6 Nov

Saturday mornings I wake early to go to the farmer’s market in North Tonawanda. These days it’s past peak fall season, past when most of the vegetables and fruit are  freshly harvested and spilling out of their cardboard boxes. Less farmers bring their produce from the country to set up shop in neat rows in the parking lot in a city. The crowds get thinner and the farmers, fewer. Warm sunshine no longer hits the fruit and makes it sparkle. Instead, dew coats the vegetables and, if you look close enough, frost. The farmers wear extra layers of clothing, wrapping scarves around their noses and mittens around their hands.  They move slower than in the warm summer days, conserving the precious heat in  the chill November morning. Coffee tastes better in November at the farmer’s market, and we stop at the vendor that smells of the bins of homemade coffee beans lining the front. Dip the metal scooper in, and anyone can take home some of the whole, roasted beans to grind at home.

Here, at the farmer’s market, Tina sells blocks of cheese at half the price they’d sell for in a regular grocery store. Behind her, as in all the vendors, sit the big, blocky vans used to transport the goods. She, “Tina,” weighs three blocks of cheese, feta, muenster and mozzarella, and tell us a reasonable number before we reach into our wallets to produce the dollar bills. It’s a pleasant exchange, as is all encounters at the market. People feel they get a good deal, and so do the farmers, who always thank you for your business.

We buy apples, the honey crisp variety, from a woman who says she arrived at 4:45 a.m. in the morning, to set up her stand. Her husband also sells at a farmer’s market, further into the city. She reaches for the wooden bushel and lets the crisp fruit roll into a blue plastic bag that barely handles the weight. We heave the heavy bag into our cart, now with $14 worth of apples in it. They’re worth every penny. Unlike apples bought at a grocery store, these ones are crisp.

We also buy mushrooms, garlic, lettuce, red peppers, potatoes, Brussels’ sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage. Later we’ll turn them into meals, maybe cauliflower soup or red pepper pizza or coleslaw or roasted potatoes. The woman we buy the cauliflower from stands behind her table of vegetables, proud. All the farmers are proud of the products they unload from the trucks. They arrange them artfully and some, prettily, in containers on the tables, with the best of the bunches showing face up, the deepest purple and smoothest eggplant closest to the customer.

I never saw how bright and beautiful fruits and vegetables are until I began going to the farmer’s market and saw, in October, rows of red, green and gold apples in the wide open sunshine. They’re not the same in the grocery store, under dim, artificial lights, lined in ugly rows and spritzed every 10 minutes with tap water. They’re not the same size, either. I saw cabbage I never knew grew so large and cauliflower that could easily be described as giant. Out in the open, windy market, they’re under the sun, misted by the air and perused by people who rightfully appreciate the bounty of the earth. Secretly the farmer’s know this of course, and that’s why they like selling at the market: It’s a most natural exchange, how wares were sold for hundreds of years.

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One Response to “Farmer’s market”

  1. Choco November 23, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    I am so glad to have bumped into your blog. Love your write ups.

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