Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers... and we bet he sold 'em at a farmers market. This week Ann Arbor Farmers Market Manager Molly Notarianni digs up the social and economic edge to a market where the personality-to-product ratio is higher than you'll find in any store.
Post 1: Mixing Community with Your Vegetables
Nearly three years ago, I packed all of my belongings into boxes and brought them to Portland's giant train station. As I handed them across a huge wooden counter to the porter, I was assured that they would be waiting for me when I arrived in Toledo. It was so warm the day I left that I forgot to pack my winter coat.
The long train ride gave me a lot of time to think about what I was doing. I thought of all that I had loved about living in Portland: going by bike, streets lined with fig trees, visiting a different farmers market each day of the week, and being surrounded by music and art. Snowy mountains gave way to snowy flatlands. I started to really wish I had remembered my winter coat. As the train rolled through tiny rusty town after tiny town, I felt odd stirrings in my heart. It was then that it hit me: I was really excited to be returning to the Midwest.
During those first few months back in Michigan, I had the same conversation with strangers more times than I can count. "Oh, you used to live in Portland?" was followed quickly by "Why on earth would you move to Ann Arbor?" At first I would explain the obvious: I wanted to be closer to my family, I was not a fan of the rainy Northwest winters, and it was pretty darn difficult to find full-time work in Portland. But there was also something more subtle pulling me back to the Midwest that was harder to define: a certain grit, a sincerity that was lost in the bravado of the coasts. In Michigan, life felt grounded and real. I found myself surrounded by farmers who had been growing food in the region for nearly a century. I was humbled to be in the presence of so much knowledge and experience. These people are unsung heros!
I believe farmers markets hold a similar space in many of our hearts, adding an intangible richness and sweetness to our lives. It certainly would be easier to go to the grocery store, yet we find ourselves waking up early on Saturday morning in January to wait in a line to buy fresh greens. Shopping at farmers markets fulfills one of our most basic human needs: the need for public engagement. Ever since humans created cities, the marketplace has been the heart of the community. As we live increasingly isolated lives, it is especially important to have reasons to come together to interact and share ideas with a diverse group of people. Shopping at farmers markets helps us stay connected to something larger than ourselves. Their value is equal parts social and commercial.
There are so many things we do every day because they feel like the "right" thing to do, not because they bring us pleasure. I adore farmers markets because they are the proverbial "win-win" situation: we are doing something with so many benefits, and having a delightful time doing so.