In Praise of Farmers Markets

If there is something that more perfectly encapsulates the magic of small town living than a weekend farmers market, I don’t know what it is.

To be fair, farmers markets certainly aren’t unique to small towns. When I lived in Pittsburgh, there was an abundance of markets. Each borough seemed to have its own and so, if you paid attention to the schedule, you could literally hit one every night of the week.

But those urban markets didn’t hold the same magic for me. The ambiance just wasn’t the same. I’d pull into the parking lot full of tents, grab some green beans, and continue my evening commute. There wasn’t really a reason to linger.

Lingering is half the fun of our downtown farmers market.

I love to spend a Saturday morning at the market and I confess that I attend for the experience as much as for the produce. I talk a good game about healthy eating but vegetables truly aren’t my forte. I can admire a bushel of cabbages or a shiny heap of banana peppers or a basket of fresh-picked okra, but the odds of my purchasing and consuming said items is quite low. Blueberries and sweet corn, on the other hand, I can handle.

I can also handle freshly-made biscuits and gravy. Breakfast at the market is becoming something of a Saturday morning tradition for our family. I’ve found that biscuits and gravy pair nicely with fresh cinnamon rolls, but that’s a matter of personal opinion. If you prefer the breakfast tacos and handmade granola, I won’t fight you. Sometimes we pop across the street for a bag of donuts and eat them at the picnic tables while we watch the world go by.

That’s the other lovely thing about a small town farmers market: you know everyone. Your neighbor will be there selling hand-crafted jewelry, and your friends will pedal up on their bikes, and by the middle of the summer the vendors feel like neighbors, too.

Last week, a friend of mine from work gifted my children a small bouquet of flowers from her stall and it made their day. I’m not sure which brought my daughter more joy, the flowers themselves or the realization that the seller was the grandmother of one of her friends. On the same trip, I bought a hand-woven plant hanger with potted succulents from a young arts entrepreneur. It looks perfect on my newly-completed back porch and I was pleased to be able to support her efforts.

After our shopping, we walked down the street to the bike shop to have my daughter’s kick stand adjusted, ran around the park for a few minutes, and stopped in the Art Center so my kids could see the new glass pieces we acquired. Once you’re downtown for the market, you might as well wander around a bit!

With the addition of my canine companion to the family, the market also makes a good destination for dog walks. I certainly do my share of aimless neighborhood circles for exercise, but it’s always nice to have a destination. Buddy seems to enjoy the hustle and bustle of market days, although he does get rather miffed when I don’t share the biscuits and gravy. We both approve of the live music that sometimes takes place on the stage and are united in our appreciation for the many trees in the park, perfect for lounging beneath.

A trip to the farmers market can easily take a couple hours, which is just fine by me. After a busy week, a slow start to the weekend feels good, especially when there are cinnamon rolls involved.

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