The best thing about shopping locally is the people. Now that I’ve become a bit of a regular at the Central Market, I’ve gotten to know some of the vendors there. I truly enjoy talking with the sellers about the products and the market.
The people who own, manage, or work at the stands and small businesses I’ve visited are passionate about what they sell or the service they provide. They have to be because none of them are in it for the money, that much is obvious. I appreciate people who feel strongly about what they do. Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” I find that to be just about the best advice I’ve ever encountered. It’s rarely been about the money for me in any job I’ve held, and I grow weary when I encounter the opposite.
I’ve learned a lot from the store/stand owners I’ve gotten to know. I‘ve learned how to cook purple rice – freaked the kids out. I learned that if you quickly pour off the water you run through your tea the first time, and then add new water to steep, you’ll remove much of the caffeine. I’ve learned to appreciate all the ways vinegar can enhance the food you cook, without adding calories. And this week I learned the difference between golden and brown raisins. The golden ones are sulfured the same way as apricots. That’s what makes them soft and plump – more marketable and more expensive. The sulfur is only for aesthetic reasons and many people have reactions to sulfur.
I had an interesting discussion about the differences between four different types of fingerling potatoes at another stand. And laughed at how gnarled and bent their carrots were – just like the ones I grow in my rocky soil. When I purchased my pork loin, the butcher asked how I planned to cook it and we discussed the benefits of using a crock pot. After I paid, he said to be sure to stop back and let him know how it turned out. I can’t imagine anyone at the Giant supermarket asking (or even caring) about how I planned to prepare my dinner that night, except maybe my friend Liz who works there, but only because I know her in other realms besides Giant.
I stopped to buy coffee beans and thought of the comment my husband had made the day before when we talked about his coffee needs. He said he was using his expensive fair-trade coffee beans from the market more sparingly because he knew what they cost. He also said that every time he made coffee he thought of the friendly guy in the Rastafarian hat who sold him the beans and wondered how much money he made at his little stand. Buying local makes every purchase personal.
It also makes it somewhat sacred. While my husband feels a kinship with his coffee guy and I adore my tea lady, the kids view every Cheezit bag as hallowed and they dole out the servings mindfully. No longer do they abandon entire bowls full on the counter to go stale and be fed to the chickens. They know every Cheezit box may be their last since I’ve only found one locally owned store that offers them and it’s not one I’m inclined to patronize that often.
Farmers Markets don’t just offer fruits and vegetables anymore. Many offer meats, cheeses, breads, and grains, plus dried fruits and nuts, honey, coffee, even wine. We often think of farmers markets as a treasure of the past, but in fact Farmers Markets are increasing in numbers every year. According to the USDA, there are 10% more markets in 2012 than the previous years. The number of markets has nearly doubled since 2004. And the more we patronize them, the more they will continue to multiply and offer more days and hours to shop.
Shopping at Local Markets where you can meet the seller, and many times the grower or baker or butcher, is rewarding not just for the body, but for the mind, and most especially for the soul.