Energy building, choices expanding at farmers markets

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To the editor:
When I moved here from the west coast nearly six years ago, I was in for a big awakening when attending the farmers markets. Used to an abundance of vendors, sounds and smells and more varieties of locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and prepared foods than I could ever use, I was shocked to arrive to Polk County and only see a dozen or so vendors in total and only about three or four selling fresh products in a limited and repetitive manner. Tomatoes, cucumbers and okra.
I remember trying to figure out who to buy from since each person looked eager for a sale yet had exactly the same thing. Scratching my head, I would purchase a few of the same items from each just to “support” local farmers. I would buy a jar of jam but would have to go home to make my own bread as no one had anything “brown” at that point.
I remember leaving saddened and confused, wondering where all the people were, and more so, where the spirit was. Farmer’s M\markets on the West Coast were not only a place to nourish the body but also a gathering ground for all ages and a hub of activity to nourish the soul. Where had I just moved to and how would I survive were questions that I remember asking early on.
For the first two years, I would drive to Greenville or Asheville and spend hours in the produce aisles (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration) just to be surrounded by the sights and smells I was used to until I was able to get my garden in full swing myself.
Now, I am thrilled to enter the area’s markets and see the progression and feel the energy that is building. New and older farmers are introducing heirloom varieties specific to the south or carving out a niche for themselves in products offered. Varieties of meats and cheeses have been introduced, several bakers have expanded to include “brown bread,” and eggs are even offered in colors!
I am able to find varieties of products that I do not have planted myself and on a typical week, I can often find something new to try. (A few weeks ago, I had a white eggplant for the first time.)
I am happy to spend money at the farmers markets and to keep my dollars in our local economy. With gas prices on the rise again, it is a relief not to have to drive outside the county for the many items I had missed before.
There are still many items we do not have locally but I have no doubt that as the months move forward and people seek out more regional products, they will appear. My philosophy has always been, “If you build it, they will come.”
I encourage each of you reading this to attend farmers markets with your entire family, make the markets a “meeting point,” linger, get to know the people, go visit their farms and keep your dollars local.
And, please, by all means, find me and say hello!
– Mindy Wiener,
Green Creek

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