Corn Commentary

Farmers Markets Closing. Time to Stop Eating?

Let me say right up front that I love the idea of local farmers markets. I am actually fortunate to live in the rural Midwest where we have conventional farmers markets and many farmers put signs by their lane offering sweet corn and other produce from their (large) gardens.

It doesn’t get any better than driving up to a farmer’s doorstep and loading up the trunk. But for those that don’t get outside the city farmers markets offer the same attraction. Produce is cheaper, fresher and often tastier because it is picked at peak ripeness. And whether at the farm or the market there is the bonus of visiting with the grower which is generally fun.

But here is the rub; October looms around the corner and with it the closure of many farmers markets for the season. Given the large harvest moon hanging in the sky this week it also means what you find at these markets is changing. Tomatoes and cucumbers are rapidly being replaced by squash and pumpkins and empty shelves or parking lots will soon follow where abundance ruled in the summer months.

So while there is a certain attraction to being a locavore, culinary adventurer’s who attempt to survive on food grown and harvested within a 100 mile radius, the prospects are a bit grim if you don’t live in California, Florida or similar Sunbelt locales. (Although there appears to be some honesty issues in some markets even in Sun Country where farmers market vendors are passing off produce from the same wholesalers used by grocery stores as locally grown.)

As you can see in the attached photo many markets have already closed for the season and two months from now these market locations will be clutched in the frosty grip of a Midwestern winter.

Of course there is always the labor intensive option of preserving food for the winter months, but personally, I like having the freedom offered by modern conveniences like grocery stores. I have no desire to go back to canning like Michael Pollan’s grandmother or crawling into a root cellar in February for the pitiful offerings they used to produce.

I think there is tremendous opportunity for growth for locally grown food and we should encourage schools and restaurants to serve local food and even establish more community gardens. Especially if it helps us recognize that the choices we make about what foods we choose to eat are important politically, environmentally, economically, and healthfully.

But I for one will continue to approach this subject with a skeptical eye, especially regarding those who think it’s either locally grown or conventional agriculture rather than both in concert.