Just about this time of summer 20 years ago my mother-in-law asked me to go on down to the garden to pick some green beans for supper. I was a Yankee living in Nashville, and my in-laws loved me but the gaps in my education confused them. That afternoon one huge gap was apparent. I carried the baby down to the garden and placed him on a blanket. Not a crawler yet, he could enjoy the shade of the warm southern day as I looked at the garden.
My father-in-law loved to plant, but he did not care much after that….care in terms of the kind of maintenance needed to get through a hot summer, like weeding and watering. So he planted a LOT and we harvested all we could before the weeds choked the plants and then everything would wither in the heat;. Summer thunderstorms just did not provide adequate amounts.
On that day I felt unsure…..never having seen a bean plant before. I recognized the squash plants. And the peppers were obvious. The tomatoes were a no-brainer. So, by process of elimination, I headed over to the near row.
To my amazement I did not see any beans. I looked high. I looked low. Lots of green there but beans? Nope.
About that time the dear sweet next door neighbor wandered down to play with the baby, and then casually got up, baby on her hip and wander over to the plant next to me, and reached over and picked a very obvious bean. I could have sworn she did some magic and they all appeared at that moment! She winked at me and gave me hug, and welcomed me to the family in the best way ever. And she never told.
In the garden my dad grew each summer in suburban New Jersey we never grew beans, hence my lack of knowledge. We did have fresh tomatoes and peppers and more, but no beans. Those came out of cans or, later, freezer bags, all commercially prepared and purchased on a supermarket. So, I had no connection between the plant that produced it and the food I put in my mouth.
Most people may be surprised to know that the first modern grocery store was a Piggly-Wiggly in Memphis in 1916. Until that time people who needed to purchase items they did not grow or trade with other people they knew went into a shop and presented a list to the man at the counter. He would go into the back area and box up all the requested items. Clarence Saunders’ concept of self-service selection of food items took a while to catch on, and now the supermarket is the primary food source for most people.
It sure is convenient, no question about it. For many of us we can drive there, park nearby, and purchase food, cleaners, paper goods and toiletries all in one place. But now that we know we have choices, do we go there just because it is our habit?
Choices exist, particularly during the local growing season. The popularity of farmers’ markets has exploded, with the USDA listing over 8100 markets in their current National Farmers Market Directory, up from 5000 just five years ago! Markets can be found in small towns and throughout large cities. The closest one may be held once a week, but there may be several others within a half hour drive on other days. Another website, Local Harvest, also lists markets and farms and more!
In addition, food from local farms can be available through various buying opportunities, ranging from online ordering and delivering to your door like Yamhill Valley Grown, purchasing a share at the beginning of a season for a weekly box or basket full of produce which is a CSA, or a farm nearby may have a farm-stand where you can purchase their freshly picked produce and maybe some other goods from the area.
And if you are truly fortunate, you live in a place where some very passionate people worked hard to form a store, an indoor year-round local food market. I was involved with Huntington, West Virginia’s Wild Ramp Market and have been working with a group of people in Forest Grove, Oregon who are in the midst of the planning phase.
The Wild Ramp recently celebrated its second anniversary and much is made in their public communication how the market is a community endeavor. The community wants it. The community made it happen. The community supports it with their energy, their volunteer effort and their patronage.
The same can be achieved anywhere there are enough people who enjoy freshly picked ripe produce, the taste of which can not be found in a supermarket. People who know that the breed of animal raised and the food it is fed makes a huge difference in the taste and texture of the meat on your plate. People who understand that supporting local farms and a local business means the local economy is stronger.
Are you in a routine…..or passionate?