Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

With every article I read about farmers’ markets, I yearn for the weekend when we finally get ours in Oak Park. Seems the company that will run the market passed the parking hurdle, having turned in the study requested by the County. (Hello, if we had buses and small neighborhoods, we wouldn’t have to worry about the cars!) Our market will be either on Saturday or Sunday, from 9 am to 1pm. Either day I’m thrilled.

Human nature being what it is, when you get a group of people together, you get arguments and grumblings and people gaming the system. The article in today’s New York Times ‘Dining In’ section talks about the difficulties of policing the producer-only rules at farmers’ markets.

According to Michael Hurwitz, director of Greenmarket, “those who are violating our rules are cheating, and it should be personal integrity that catches it, rather than an inspection. Do I wish we had 20 more inspectors? No. I wish we had no cheating in the system.”

Stacy Miller, executive secretary of the Farmers Market Coalition, a national nonprofit created in response to requests for more information, resources and representation about the industry, said there is no consensus on producer-only rules.

So what will the Oak Park Farmers’ Market be? According to the proposal before the Municipal Advisory Council, the Community Certified Farmers’ Market will be “An open-air pedestrian based market that offers a variety of fresh and eco friendly produce, fruits, baked/specialty foods and musical entertainment for the local residents...The State of California Agricultural Commissioner will certify that the farmers will sell food produced directly by the farmers themselves. "

Whatever the rules are, what I want is the market. Not simply because I need to know the provenance of my plums or the name of the farmer’s daughter or to eat pesticide-free peaches. I want what a friend said she craves – social – an adjective-turned-noun. And not just anonymous chatting while you bag a few onions, but a deeper relationship with everything and everyone that will cut through the alienation, homogenization and sterility of what our lives have become in the guise of progress.

So Ms. Farmer, you can tell me the history of your heirloom tomatoes. I’ll listen. But I’d rather you feed me. Because I’m hungry.

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