I see the Brooklyn Farmers’ Market as the antithesis of a Twinkie.
The Twinkie is always the same. It lasts forever, is full of chemicals and is made on some distant planet. And never does it create a healthy sense of community.
The Brooklyn Farmers’ Market on the other hand is possibly the most powerful community force since Indians sat around camp fires on the banks of the East River.
The Farmers’ Market is never the same, bursting with a variety of heirloom vegetables, intelligent people and seasonal fare. It does not last forever but rather only happens during a certain window of time at a certain place, thus pulling you into the immediate world around you. It is devoid of chemicals and unites local people and food together. And it creates such a powerful sense of community.
As a Brooklyn green builder I am passionate about things that build community – not only for people but for the diverse species of plants and animals in the world. The Farmers’ Market encourages farming a diversity of small ecosystems where humans and nature interact in a more balanced way.
You can feel this at the Farmers’ Market. The people selling their food are passionate about health and holistic thinking. Everyone has found themselves in a supermarket asking a question of the supermarket employee to realize not only do they know nothing about the food they are stocking but couldn’t care less.
Not so at the Farmers’ Market. I educate myself on food and the environment but I look to these people for advice. The guy who sells cheese not only knows the scientific names of the cheese cultures but what temperatures they work best at and what foods bring them to live. The mushroom vendor knows all the medicinal attributes of their food. Never will you look at a shitaki mushroom the same after hearing about their psychological and physiological impact on your body.
Today I went to the Farmers’ Market, like I do every Sunday and like always it was an enlightening joy. I ran into neighbors, I discovered new fruits and vegetables, and it was pointed out by the bread guy how the organic flower that is sprinkled on the freshly baked bread had a “cool zen garden pattern”:
I saw exotic colors and unusual shapes. Life had come back to food. Food had come back to life.
The market was buzzing with smells, music and invigorated people. There was a bioculture. There was life. Healthy life. Despite the sweltering heat people were being part of and actively making community.
Just for fun, for a dose of contrast, I popped into the local box store across the street. Its super air conditioned halls were so cool and refreshing compared to the heat outside. And yet the halls were empty. The place was lifeless. The worker didn’t know if they sold Twinkies but he did point me to the food isle, if you can call it that, just beyond the candy isle and before the footcare isle. It had an variety packaging, all containing dead food, all a variation of corn syrup and salt.
It is a sad fact that people actually consider this a place to buy food. The Farmers’ Market, despite its wonder, is VERY expensive. The people from the projects two blocks away do not and can not shop at the Farmers’ Market. They shop at the box store, where you get what you pay for.
You see, the Farmers’ Market charges up front. When you buy an heirloom tomato you are paying for the real cost of food. You are paying for a living wage, for healthy crop yields, for small scale economy, and for health. It is like paying in cash. You leave the market not owing anyone anything.
When you buy the tin of processed food you are not paying up front. Despite the sub par quality of the food, you don’t pay for the soil erosion, the chemical contamination, the diversity extinction, the poor wages or the many other costs associated with selling a product under cost. It is put on a credit card you that you pay later. In fact we may well be paying for many generations to come.
And yet “poor” people can’t afford anything other than buying on credit. The Farmers’ Market is out of their economic reach. They are stuck in a system they not only keep alive by consuming it’s output but are the slaves that run it. They produce the garbage in the big box stores and that garbage is all they can afford.
How do we break that cycle. How do they get access to the Farmers’ Market?
I don’t know. I am a green builder. I know about other things. I however do appreciate the Farmers’ Market and am grateful I am part of its cycle.