Living on the Earth, July 11, 1997, Farmers Markets
Connecticut's Farmers Markets are just about in full swing. On the town greens
in Trumbull, Kent, Middletown, Danbury and New Milford, in downtown parking lots
in Greenwich, Shelton and Seymour, at Grace Baptist church in Waterbury and St.
Michael's church in Naugatuck, at a school in Weston, the town hall in Thomaston
and a playground in Bristol, on Wall Street in Bridgeport, Main Street in
Stamford, and Orange Street in New Haven and at 38 other sites around
Connecticut, farmers and eaters come together to celebrate their mutual
dependence and to help sustain each other.
Just 10 years ago, there were fewer than 20 Farmers Markets in Connecticut.
This year, at 54 markets around the state, 175 farmers sell their fruits,
vegetables, herbs and flowers directly to consumers.
Local farmers need people to buy and eat the food they grow-to appreciate the
flowers and enjoy the herbs. Everyone who eats needs farmers. Many of us yearn
for the real flavor of fresh local produce, for connections to the seasonality
of fruits and vegetables grown nearby and to the soil.
Farmers Markets are an old, yet still very effective way to make these
connections. Held at a regular time and place, usually once a week, local
farmers set up displays of their produce in these "sell-only-what-you-grow"
markets, supervised by the Department of Agriculture and local health districts.
Some markets started in May. All of them are open in July when corn and
tomatoes begin ripening. They stay open well into the fall.
Farmers Markets allow growers and eaters to get to know each other. An
important part of many cultures around the world, they are growing in
popularity, not just in Connecticut, but all over the United States. Farmers
markets are a nearly pure example of the free-market system. In fact, when
Communism fell in the former Soviet Union, the new opportunity to sell produce
at Farmers Markets was welcomed warmly by small farmers there.
If farmers here can't sell what they grow, their farms will become subdivisions
and strip malls. Farmers Markets are critical to a sustainable, local economic
system and are essential in order to protect and preserve farms in our
Just recently, when nearby supermarkets changed from local to regional to global
ownership in a matter of months, they were no longer interested in buying from
local farmers. The global supermarket system of selling produce demands very
large quantities of low cost, always-available fruits and vegetables. This
system requires huge farms that use lots of toxic sprays, and expensive
machinery, numerous government and environmental subsidies and now genetically
engineered seeds in order to lower production costs.
The distribution sector of the food system has grown to take the lion's share of
the money we spend on food, 80 cents of every dollar. This sector has become so
powerful that it can drive down the prices paid to farmers and drive up consumer
costs, while it too takes advantage of as many subsidies and tax benefits as
possible. Farmers Markets are one of our most effective tools for altering this
Here, customers are more interested in freshness and flavor. They crave a more
direct experience than that provided by supermarket produce that's traveled all
the way from Chile or California. They like being able to talk to the farmers,
to ask about varieties and to learn more about farmers' growing methods.
This year, Suzanne and I are taking produce from our farm to farmers markets in
Seymour and Beacon Falls. Market day always involves lots of harvesting,
cleaning and preparation. Bright pink and creamy yellow new potatoes are dug
from the dark soil and washed. We pull up garlic, carrots and onions, cut a wide
variety of fresh greens, herbs and colorful flowers. We pick berries and peas.
Some farmers are already harvesting corn, tomatoes, summer squash and beans.
Others will be picking these soon.
A listing of the Farmers Markets in Connecticut is available from the
Connecticut Department of Agriculture, State Office Building, Hartford, CT
06106. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
See you soon at the Farmers Market!
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C)1997, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT certified
organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban agriculture
projects in New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and Norwalk, CT). Their collection
of essays Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful
Future is available from Bill Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14
postpaid. These essays first appeared on WSHU, public radio from Fairfield, CT.
New essays are posted weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing and those since
November 1995 are available there.