The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated this as National Farmers Market Week. There are more than 175 farmers markets scattered across Minnesota, offering gorgeous local produce, specialty food products and the camaraderie of the market square. In celebration of our markets, I give you the following:
To everything, there is a season
This one goes out to those nice (and truly incorrigible) folks who show up every year in early June asking for local sweet corn. In Minnesota. “Won’t that sweet corn taste good in August?” I say. “Won’t we gorge ourselves on it so we can remember it in January?” Life doesn’t always give us what we want, when we want it. Sometimes there’s a lean season. Sometimes, there’s sweet corn.
Keep it real
Put down that smartphone. Leave that Bluetooth device in the car. Come out and smell some basil. Watch the little kids dance. Learn what makes grass-fed beef so healthy and so delicious. You might even use cash money (remember that stuff?) instead of swiping a card. We human beings need opportunities to look other folks in the eye, feel the breeze on our faces and think — if only once per week — about what sustains our bodies.
Tie down your canopy
Those quaint pop-up shelters that give the market its unique and festive feel? They provide shelter from sun and rain and give each market stall the feeling of its own four walls. Market insiders also know that in high winds, these canopies are potential weapons of mass destruction. The lesson? Hold on to your shelter. Take good care of the structures and people who take care of you. And, for Pete’s sake, slap on some heavy weights to keep everything where it’s supposed to be.
Just listen up and be nice
Two thousand shoppers, 50 vendors plus their families, plentiful community stakeholders, even the occasional stray chicken. Everybody (and I do mean everybody) has issues. Close your mouth. Listen up. Apologize when you need to. Smile.
Support your neighbors
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a social scientist or a biologist to know that food from 20 miles away is fresher and tastes better than food from 2,000 miles away. Buying that local food also enlivens your own community and your sense of belonging. It bolsters the young couple or the immigrant family who feel called to farm. It nourishes your own body. It’s as sure a connection as reaching out to hold someone’s hand.
Find your passion
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a drum major for peace. I am a drum major for local kohlrabi — but, more importantly, for the people who work so darn hard to grow it and for the community that forms each Thursday when folks come to buy it. There’s no Nobel Peace Prize in it for me, but occasionally there’s a free loaf of bread or bag of beets. I’m OK with that.
No crying at the farmers market
Skinned knee? Lost your balloon animal? Sleet and 34 degrees? Heat index of 105 degrees? Broken-down van? Favorite honey guy absent? Keep your chin up, folks! It’s National Farmers Market Week, and you have 175 markets to choose from right here in Minnesota. Let’s get out there and buy some sweet corn.
Kirsten Bansen Weigle is the manager of the Maple Grove Farmers Market and serves on the board of directors of the Minnesota Farmers Market Association.