Fourteen reasons to shop at the Boulder Farmers' Market
I have a lot of high-minded reasons for doing almost all my summer shopping at the Boulder Farmers' Market. I worry about climate change, soil erosion, bee die-off, genetically modified foods and the flood of pesticides contaminating soil, sea, air and our bodies. I know small farmers must be supported if we want a reliable food supply because variety, ubiquity and ingenuity produce a robust system while big agriculture is so swollen, profit-hungry and conscienceless it's bound to topple. The food big ag produces barely nourishes. Financial shenanigans I only half understand periodically take staples off the shelves or make them unaffordable -- as when the government decides to utilize its mountains of subsidized corn for fuel instead of food and prices spike; or we flood other countries with corn so cheap it destroys their farmers. Large-scale monocropping means a single pest or virus can decimate acres of field or orchard. Animals are horribly abused and the resultant meat is often contaminated. As for waste and fuel expenditure: We send shrimp to China to be shelled, de-veined and returned to U.S. tables. How sustainable is that?
But on this mild, cloudy Saturday morning, I'm thinking more about the small personal reasons I come to the Boulder Farmers' Market. I hear Eric Skokan of Black Cat farm and restaurant telling a customer that this is a planter's spring, with wet and dry spells alternating beautifully. "Every single plant germinated," he says. "Now my problem is I have to thin them out."
Things are different with Karen Beeman of WeeBee Farms, standing at the next stall. She's just lost a thousand dollars worth of pepper plants set out on basement heat mats to a hungry mouse, which not only decimated the tops, but dug out the seeds as well. "I've done this for sixteen years and I've had a nibble or two before, but this is the first time I've lost the whole crop," she says. "In a couple of weeks all these people will be here looking for my peppers. I had lots of varieties. It really is heart breaking."
On the other hand, the garlic for which WeeBee is famous -- Beeman sells around thirty varieties in summer -- is doing well.
Here are fifteen reasons to shop at the Boulder Farmers' Market:
1) Meeting interesting, inspiring people like Eric and Karen, finding others as obsessed with food as yourself, keeping up to date on local food happenings.
2) Knowing the person who hands you that bag of spinach actually grew it. Organic produce in a supermarket may contain or be processed with inorganic ingredients. Organic store chickens still live the same miserable constricted lives their non-organic cousins do. While not everything sold at the market is organic, the selling process is always transparent: The growers are willing to explain their methods, and you know exactly what you're getting.
3) Eating (relatively) guilt-free meat. Just listen to Frank Silva of Natural Homestead Beef talking about how intelligent his highland cattle are or Aaron Rice of Jodar Farms chuckling about the way his entire flock of chickens descended on him en masse as he was turning his compost pile. He was puzzled for a moment, then realized they were happily pecking out maggots. You know all these are happy creatures -- at least until their last day.
Keep reading for more reasons to shop the Boulder Farmers Market.