[Ed. note: This article is part of our series of weekly reflections, called Deep Down Things, published on Wednesdays.]
Asparagus spears that are crisp and freshly pulled from the earth. Peaches with sweetness; blueberries with tang. Onions with dirt in their root hairs, handed to you by an in-the-flesh farmer with dirt under his fingernails.
The joys of shopping at farmers markets are simple but rich, like most good things in life. So it’s fitting that these markets that strengthen both communities and economies and feature healthy food from a healthy earth are getting their due this week. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared August 1-7 to be National Farmers Market Week. If you still need a reason to visit (or start!) a local farmers market, look no further than the official declaration:
Whereas thousands of American farmers markets offer affordable and healthful products sold directly from the farm in their freshest possible state, increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables for children and families, which can help promote child health and reduce childhood obesity; and
Whereas farmers markets play a key role in developing local and regional food systems, support family farms, revitalize local communities, provide important outlets for producers and the opportunity for farmers and consumers to interact; and
Whereas the United States Department of Agriculture strongly supports farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer marketing activities for agricultural producers; and
Whereas farmers markets offer fresh healthy food via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program and address hunger through donations of unsold food;
Now, therefore, to further awareness of farmers markets and of the contributions farmers make daily to life in America, I, Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, do hereby proclaim the week of August 1-7, 2010, as National Farmers Market Week.
For a taste of what small-scale, all-natural agriculture entails, and why hard-working farmers are deserving of such recognition, here is a brief reflection from Flourish contributor Christiana Peterson. In 2008, Christiana and her family moved from Washington, DC to rural Illinois to join a farming community and learn to farm on a local, organic scale. What follows is her reflection on the joys and challenges of their first year:
A little over a year ago, we boxed up our things and moved from Washington, DC to this “bit of earth” in rural Illinois. What a year it’s been. We’ve been through berries, farmer’s markets, vegetables, canning, jamming, cooking and cleaning. There’s been a baby born, goat kids born, and a baby conceived. There have been pests, beetles, bugs, suffocated chickens, slaughtered chickens, butchered chickens, eggs and eggs, goat milk, raw milk, new seeds, saved seeds, shucking corn, shocking fences, applesauce and autumn. We’ve picked grapes, sauced pears, salsa-ed tomatoes and peppers, shelled peas and frozen green beans. We’ve survived being stir-crazy in winter, stuck inside with a baby in the cold and snow, and the resultant spring mud that sucked in our boots and sunk us up to our shins. We’ve exalted both in the colors and coolness of fall after a hot summer, and the warmth of spring after a long winter. We’ve loved, fought with, hurt with, worshipped with, learned from and celebrated with our neighbors; we’ve both taught and studied the Bible; we’ve watched hearts break and relationships mend and end; we’ve seen fires in houses and on hills and heard trees crack in the midst of thunderstorms so close. We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. We’ve made new friends and missed our dear ones and rejoiced when they visited.
And you know what?
We’re going to do it all over again.
This week at Flourish we’ll be highlighting local agriculture with posts old and new, but we want your stories, too! Send photos of how you interact with your local farmers—at a farmers market, with your kids and some local food in the kitchen, or visiting the farm itself—to and we’ll post them on the website. In the meantime, thank a local farmer this week for his or her contribution to healthy dinner tables and a healthy creation.