I probably don’t have to tell you what a delightful asset a farmers market can be for a city; I’m sure you’ve already been to one. Maybe even this weekend. At first glance, farmers markets may look like cosmopolitan elitism disguised as a rustic pursuit—the wealthy condo-dweller traipsing down her street to buy fresh cut flowers and blueberries so she can feel distantly connected to rural America (the real America, as Jack Donaghy puts it)—but I think that at the heart of the farmers market we’ll find good intentions and wholesome food.
The cities that do it right have markets in every neighborhood. Maybe there’s a central plaza downtown where the big dogs set up shop, but there are also smaller gatherings of stands in parking lots throughout the city. A good farmers market has fresh produce, food products like honey and eggs, and prepared foods such as baked treats. Musical acts or cooking demos are a plus too.
The market plays a vital role in our cities—not just as a supplier of food but also as a communal destination. Instead of the usual pattern of city residents attending activities like soccer practice or family picnics or religious services in distinct groups, the market facilitates the congregation of all people. I think everyone can get behind fresh, delicious food. What’s more, neighborhood markets increase the walkability of an area by creating a destination for people to walk (or bike or skateboard) to.
This inviting, accessible atmosphere at a market is its main asset. More and more markets are also accepting WIC checks and EBT cards, expanding access to healthy, affordable produce, although the hours during which they run are usually still limited. Use of this feature may be scattered (partially by the variance in income levels across the city), but the option is a significant step. Beyond connecting citydwellers with their neighborhoods, markets also connect us with the farmers who live beyond the city. By talking to the woman who is selling us green beans or the boy who is offering us carrots, we tap into a lifestyle that many of us have never known before, learning about the harvest this year and the hard work that goes into producing the food we consume every day.
The fresh, affordable food, communal atmosphere and the chance to learn about a world outside the city make the farmers market my favorite place to be on the weekends. I hope you’re able to find that joy in your own city.
Photos taken at the Kingfield Farmers Market in Minneapolis this weekend.