Written by: Saul Hirshbein
What is a farmer’s market? I’m sure many of you have either heard of the term, been to one, lied and said you’ve been to one, or heard your millennial friends raving about it. To understand what a farmers market is, we must first define the words “farmers” and “market.” A farmer is someone who has a plot of land and decides to grow. They laboriously seed and plant an empty plot of land into a teaming forest of produce and nourishment, but this is no easy task. A market is defined as “a regular gathering of people for the purchase and sale of provisions, life stocks and other commodities.” This definition is the simplest way to define it, simply put and easy to grasp. However, altogether a farmer’s market is much much broader than just a dictionary definition, and sometimes not so easy to define in a short article about said subject. I will attempt to tell you about the complexity that is a farmers market and the way it brings people of different cultures together. The way you can taste these cultures literally through what these “farmers” produce and sell, but you won’t understand it unless you go to one yourself. Read this now, but once you’ve put your phone down or closed your laptop, go! Find your nearest market, experience the food, walk around and experience the atmosphere. It is filled with farmers, vendors, growers, and chefs; people that want to give a piece of themselves to you.
In today’s day and age, we get most of our produce and goods from big name brand supermarkets or wholesalers that give us coupons and free samples to get us to buy more and more. This is the consumerist economy we live in, which is fine up to a certain point. People need to eat and feed their families so that we have corporations that profit off that and with that profit they pay employees, provide jobs and in turn, stimulate the economy. These are all good things, but I would argue that we have forgotten about a key element in this economic equation: the people who grow, farm, bake, make and painstakingly labor over the goods we enjoy and consume. This is where farmers markets come into play. In these rural markets, we get to almost have a one on one with the actual people that make the very goods we are buying. This is a thing of beauty: to actually meet the person who baked the bread we waft from a mile away and ask him/her questions about the different types of bread and flour, to meet the farmer whose guava and papaya we eat on our kitchen tables every day, to meet the cook that makes the most amazing apple and key lime pies, and to interact with producers is a unique experience that I think people should do more often.
As a chef, I interact with growers and vendors of delicious delicacies on a weekly basis asking questions on seasonality, the freshness of produce, and how to utilize each and every part of an ingredient. Connecting to food on a more personal level really opens your eyes to what is around you. Here in South Florida we often forget that a short drive away from the hustle and bustle of hotel resorts, malls, beaches, and parties, there are farmers growing fruits and vegetables from all parts of the world. Specifically, we have farmers that grow strawberries, mangoes, passion fruit, leeches, soursop or guanabana, oranges (obviously), grapefruit, the best tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, plantain, green beans, corn; the list can literally fill two pages, if not more. My point is that these farmers want their products out there and the only way they can do this is by selling to wholesalers or hotels and restaurants, but what about us? Yes, we can go to a restaurant and get the same passion fruit that was grown just a few miles away and eat it as a very nice, put together dessert, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I make a living off of that so I am not against it at all, but there will come a time where the regular everyday consumer wants to get their hands on that same passion fruit, tomato or coconut and discover something for themselves. How can you do that? Enter the farmers market.
You would be surprised at how many farmers markets there are here in South Florida, they are becoming more and more popular amongst locals and tourists and this is a trend catching on all around the nation. People are waking up on the weekends (most farmers markets are only on the weekends) bright and early to go out and explore since exploring is a beautiful thing, especially when it involves food. Food makes us more open to trying new things and meeting new eager faces that want to sell us their labor of love; to go to a farmer’s market and meet people who you will find are very similar to us and make amazing nourishments is worldly in of itself. Now, I can start naming multiple different markets in many different cities and towns for the remainder of this article, but I am guessing you have a phone, and in that phone, you have access to the internet. Go on it now and search up “farmers market near me” and you will find endless possibilities to go out and discover new foods, fruits, and veggies you may have not tried before. You can also discover new dishes or baked goods, and new people; people that want their products to shine and feed your belly and your mind.
Step into the big tent of a farmer’s market and you will be transported; to another time, another instance of being. You will feel, smell, and feed off the transactions of knowledge and ideas that are going on around you… and the food, never forget about the food. I lied, I actually will tell you about a great farmers market that is catching fire in South Florida, perhaps my favorite one in the tour of markets that I have been so lucky to go on: the Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood is a special one. A big empty warehouse once used to make watches is now transformed into another keeper of times: a market, a big space for food and culture. In it today, there are over 100 vendors from many different cultures and backgrounds selling foods and goods from all across the globe. Like South Florida, it hosts a melting pot of vendors that sell you their life and let you taste a small part of their history. There is food from Ethiopia, Thailand, Japan, Peru, Israel, Venezuela (obviously), and Jamaica. I can go on and on about this amazing place known as a farmers market, but just like anything in life you have to experience it yourself. You have to be there to witness the food, the people, and the Eatvolution.