Come One, Come All
In the June 10 issue of New York Review of Books, Michael Pollan wrote: “one sociologist calculated that people have ten times as many conversations at the farmers’ market than they do in the supermarket.”
I love this observation. This Saturday marks the return of my local farmers’ market. I am thrilled but at the same time am bracing myself. Only two years ago, before the locavore movement really took off, I could stroll through the market at 9 a.m., and have ten times as many conversations with food-loving neighbors and local farmers all the while happily dumping out my wallet in exchange for chioggia beets, organic mustard greens and a cut of grass-fed beef.
The local farmers market is a community center where food lovers have chosen to sacrifice the convenience of a shopping cart and credit card payments to make connections with their food and each other.
But this year recipe-trading while waiting in line may be in jeopardy. The market is way too popular. To get those hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, that $8 bag of perfect granola, and quart of just-picked strawberries, I’ll have to arrive before the market opens, stand behind stanchions (it’s gotten that bad), and dash through once they’re removed. Chatting will be cut short in the pursuit of the perfect hunk of duck prosciutto, which always goes fast because the duck guy isn’t around every week.
I have mixed feelings about our farmers market’s newfound popularity. Is a larger community where connections are fleeting just as valuable as a smaller community where the connections are deeper? Does that scenario sound familiar, those with 5,000 Facebook friends?
On the one hand, I love the idea that more people in my town have discovered the pleasures of the market. The food is magically delicious. But, because popularity slightly diminishes some of the pleasure , we shoppers will have to make connecting a priority in lieu of nabbing that last pint of fiddle head ferns.
So, I’ll look forward to connecting with an even larger group of food-loving neighbors. At the same time, I won’t plan on baking that strawberry rhubarb pie. Chances are, both ingredients sold out hours ago and buying them in the grocery store just isn’t as social.
What’s your story? Are you part of a community that’s become overcrowded, virtual or otherwise? How do you handle it?