Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes and Charlie’s Hot Apple Cider...
...was how it all started for me
If you’re not a farmers market person, then this is for you.
Allow me to take you on a little journey to some of the farmers markets I’ve visited or frequent, and what I love about them. There may be a farmers market person inside of you yet.
Farmers markets are found worldwide and have been around for as many years as people have been buying and trading. They reflect the cultures of their communities and are most often producer only markets, which implies that the middle man is cut out and you are face to face with farmers, chefs, artists, and local flavor of all sorts. You can ask questions about farming practices or get advice on preparation. These people are your neighbors, or are a part of the community you are visiting.
While On Vacation
I had the incredible fortune to visit Normandy, France a couple years back. It was such an amazing holiday in so many ways. One of my fondest memories was, you guessed it, the farmers market. The house my daughter, my sistar, and her family and I rented had notice of the local markets and we were all too thrilled to try and catch each one. The photo here is everything that we got that first day - everything that we hadn’t already munched on while strolling the market. It was such a glorious way to get to know the town and the local delicacies. The heart shaped local brie-like cheese was no small part of my delight of one of the best weeks of my life!
Driving down the street in Glenwood Springs, Colorado last summer with my auntie and daughter, we stumbled upon an afternoon farmers market. It was a welcome respite in a pleasant park with a band and rental chairs. I bought a necklace that I like very much, we snacked on mango on a stick, swayed to the music, and generally had a great time. We also got berries, apples, and delicious pastries for later. There may have been a glass of local wine involved too. It was just the perfect stop in a town we had already fallen in love with. It made us feel like we were part of the local scene.
My visit to the South Pacific markets were reminiscent of what I consider a farmers market, but on steroids! Not that they had a bigger farmers market, but it was THE market. Tonga, Western Samoa, and Fiji shopping was awesome - it was the only way people shopped, and the variety was astounding! There were many delights that I’d never seen before, which is always a welcome surprise to me. I was cooking on a privately owned yacht, and when we shopped, we shopped BIG. My photos have lost their bright colors, which is a sad thing for my memories, but I do recall them being really bright, vibrant, friendly, and exiting places. The joy of the exploration and mystery of the choppy communication with locals sharing culinary direction can’t be matched!
Everyday Real Life
One of my greatest sources of pride and happiness has been my four years as the Official Market Chef for the Baltimore Farmers Marked and Bazaar. I’m there every Sunday morning during market season and I have a routine. I always start at the same entrance, I say hiya to my dear friend the “Dog Biscuit Lady” (locally made, human grade ingredients). I walk around once with whatever delectable meal I’m eating and drinking that morning - our market has dozens of food vendors offering absolutely everything you can imagine. The second time around, fat and happy, I spend as much money as food (ingredients) I can carry—I often buy gifts, jewelry, and clothing at the market too.
Saturday mornings, year round, I can always count on the 32nd Street Market in Waverly. A little hula hooping, a blueberry lemonade, and either a spinach pie or a falafel wrap, while I purchase my goodies and enjoy shorter lines than I’ll be seeing on Sunday morning with a few of the same vendors.
Life is Great in 21228 with two markets, Sunday and Wednesday, and it’s no wonder residents never want to leave Catonsville. When I lived there, we only had the Wednesday market. It was small, but such a nice atmosphere, and in this “small town”, it’s a great weekly meeting place. I’m sure it’s the bee’s knees now! The Sunday one has grown quickly in this farmers market loving climate.
Thursday afternoons in Towson is always fun. They have a few vendors that I don’t tend to see at some of the other markets I go to, so it’s a little breath of fresh air. Parking is sometimes a problem in Towson, and in my opinion, certainly more so than in other places.
Sometimes I find myself in my old neighborhood of Takoma Park, and if I’ve timed it right, I’ll get a market visit in there too. It’s on Sunday, so it’s rare, but a nice treat. The community cares a great deal about quality, the environment, and overall sustainability, and that shows in their vendors. It’s a small market, just a block long, but it is well attended and a delightful morning.
For over 10 years Eastern Market on Saturday mornings was woven into the fabric of my life. Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes every single week! The farmers were all so friendly. Those were very happy days for me, and the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club was instrumental. It’s one of the many reasons why my heartstrings are pulled every time I visit Capital Hill in D.C. I recently came across my old checkbook from those days, and I think every third check was written to the cheese shop in the market - gotta laugh!
There are many, many more markets in my area, and that I've visited on holiday. This is a simply taste of it.
What can you find at your farmers market?
Where It All Started - every kind of fresh produce, poultry, specialty meats, baked goods, eggs, dairy, nuts, and local meat you can imagine. Eating local and in season is how people have been eating since the beginning of time. It’s nice to do some things by the season. I’ve mentioned this before (Reasons to Shop Local), and can’t say it enough - it’s great to be able to get what you want when you want it, but get those local strawberries, tomatoes, and peas when they are at their absolute best - you will have no regrets!
Eating & Drinking - breakfast burrito; falafel wrap, spinach pies, crepes, mango & sticky rice, turkey burgers, pies, pad Thai, kettle corn, biscuit sandwiches, omelets, piping hot fresh donuts, special diet baked goods, pickles, and any kind of street food you can imagine may be there...depending on where you are.
Fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh squeezed lemonade, apple cider, wheatgrass juice shots, locally roasted coffees, and wine tastings.
What Else Is There? - Hula hoops, belts/buckles, dresses, tunics, skirts, socks, second hand clothes, bowls made from record albums, lots of jewelry, pottery, furniture, and soaps. Artisans, street performers, families, singles, friends, and local characters of each and every kind. You may meet local celebrities and politicians, see the news being filmed, or even a TV program (I was featured in an episode of Tasty Travels on Charm TV last year. It was SO much fun to film! You can see it here) It’s probably not a good idea to bring your pets though. It’s generally frowned upon in America, and often illegal.
More tips for a stellar market experience wherever you are
Parking - Don’t let parking get you down.
Make sure you read the signs, but don’t get discouraged. There certainly are people who spend hours at the market (guilty), but most people are in and out in about 30 minutes, and parking will open up soon.
Money - I save my $1s and $5s all week so vendors don’t have to give all their small bills to me - they always appreciate it. Sometimes there’s an ATM nearby, and some vendors take credit cards. SNAP is often accepted.
Buy Too Much? - Did you get too excited? That happens to me all the time! Do whatever you have time for immediately. I will wash and cut produce to ready to grab snacking, wash berries (Link to Waste Not Your Food)
If it’s available locally and in season, then that’s your best choice.
The list goes on and on! Really, it does. Each region, community, and season will offer different experiences. I simply want you to see that it’s an endless variety, that is totally worth your time to visit.
Along with the fun, romance, and connection to community, there are practical, social, environmental, and economic reasons to shop at farmers markets. I am constantly bumping into friends and family at farmers markets, and sometimes politicians, television and movie personalities. It’s nice to form relationships with the people who grow your food. You may or may not know each other’s names but you’ve got some sort of connection after a transactions and maybe some advice or a story. It makes the food special to me. The quality will always be better, and your carbon footprint smaller when your food isn’t gobbling up fossil fuels for thousands of miles, and a couple weeks of transportation, storage, and refrigeration; and, you’re supporting the local economy by shopping at the farmers markets. (Link to Reasons to Shop Local)