Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/8/2010 (4050 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There are 10 reasons why you should avoid going to a farmers' market this summer.
One: Inconvenience. There is no such thing as "dropping in" at the province's biggest market in St. Norbert on a Saturday morning. It's an expedition that requires a strategic plan, beginning with finding a parking spot. If you're early -- or just plain lucky -- it will be in one of the adjacent lots, but otherwise, you'll find yourself walking several blocks along with a whole bunch of other people.
But strangely enough, no one seems to mind; they come from all directions and converge on the market as though on some kind of pilgrimage.
The same goes for the 50-something farmers' markets scattered throughout the province, although perhaps on a smaller scale. It is clear from the lengths people will go to support these places that they really want to be there. In fact, a 2008 study found farmers' markets, which currently only operate during the summer months, pump more than $10 million into the Manitoba economy. Odd.
Two: Crowds. Once in, be prepared to negotiate your way to your favourite vendors amidst the throng of shoppers who are zig-zagging everywhere. As shopping experiences go, it bears little resemblance to the orderly flow of a grocery store. There are lots of strollers that pull double duty as a toddler/veggie carrier, but no shopping carts. And there is produce everywhere, home-baked pies on one side and fresh-cut flowers, handicrafts or handmade perogies over on the other.
Three: Festive music. While you're checking out the vendors, you must negotiate your way around all those people just standing around, listening to the band. Don't stop, or you might get sucked into dancing a jig or something.
At the height of the morning, be prepared to hang out with 20 or more strangers while waiting to pay for your produce. If this were a grocery store, people would be grumpy and clerks would be frantically paging for backup.
Which brings us to the fourth reason to avoid these places: an unhealthy degree of jocularity. Why are all these lined-up people smiling, contentedly soaking up the sun as they visit with folks they've never met before? Shopping for food isn't supposed to be fun. It is something you hurry up and do, so you can hurry up and do other things. Happy, relaxed people on a Saturday morning. Yuck.
Five: what the heck do you do with radishes the size of an apple?
Six: Food so fresh, it doesn't have a label. The customer has no idea how much salt, trans fat, saturated fat, sugar and starch and calories contained in those bunches of beets and beet greens, the newly dug potatoes and onions, or freshly picked corn.
How are we supposed to know how bad these foods are for us or how large a percentage of the daily recommended intakes of various nutrients they provide?
Buying food this way requires an understanding of the value of whole food versus food components and a certain faith in the ancient wisdom that fresh food that has skipped a few links in the so-called "value chain" can actually be good for us.
Seven: A visit to the farmers' market might inspire you to take up cooking, which, if you believe all those companies trying to sell us portion-controlled food in packages, is something a progressive, albeit increasingly obese, society no longer has the time to do.
Eight: Getting a little bit of exercise while going on a food hunt together combined with cooking what you bought together might lead to eating -- as in family meals -- together. Taking your kids along and letting them help pick out the vegetables, choose the fresh baking and decide whether to have bison burgers, veal or free-range chicken for dinner has a way of making them more interested in taste-testing the outcome.
Numerous studies have shown children who eat meals with their parents do better academically, have healthier bodies and fewer emotional and behaviour problems.
Nine: Talkative vendors. You might learn something you didn't know about the food you are buying -- how it was raised, how it was prepared and how long ago it was harvested. Your customer satisfaction guarantee is based that face-to-face contact and the firmness of their handshake. Whether you're happy with what you bought or not, they know you're likely to be back to tell them.
10: Between the family outing and the afternoon nap before cooking dinner for family or friends, you could easily blow the whole day.
And what a way to blow a day.
Laura Rance is editor of the Manitoba Co-operator. She can be reached at 792-4382 or by email: email@example.com.
Laura Rance is editorial director at Farm Business Communications.