The sun was barely poking it’s head above the horizon, but my Grandma had already been up for hours. Cracking open the bedroom door, she peeks into the bedroom, the hinges squeaking enough to invade my quiet slumber. Rolling over, she quickly shuts the door not wanting to disturb me, but already knowing I had been woken up. I begin to hear the faint sounds of pots and pans hitting the stove and the smell of frying bacon creeps under the door. I can’t hold out any longer.
My slippers pad lightly down the hall toward the source of the mouth watering aroma. I round the corner and see my prize sitting on the counter. A fresh basket of plump, ripe blackberries. My Grandma had already been out to the Farmer’s Market.
As a kid growing up in a small town in Iowa, the concept of “Organic” produce didn’t mean anything. If it came from the garden, it was organic. The Cass County Farmer’s Market took place every summer Saturday morning out at the Fairgrounds. It consisted of about 10 local vendors, most of which were hobby growers or retired farmers who’s field had been reduced to the size of a swimming pool. They would get up early, pack up wooden baskets and recycled plastic bags, load up the back of their pick- ups and drive out to park in the designated area near the entrance of the grounds. For four hours it became a tailgating party featuring old friends and fresh produce. And when berries were in season, the blackberries were my favorite. Still warm from picking we would fill up a bowl, cover them with milk and sprinkle with sugar. It was the only way I knew how to eat them.
Twenty years later, I still love and appreciate the Farmer’s Market. However, the city markets of Los Angeles only bare a slight resemblance to the market of my childhood. The resemblance being the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade pies, and of course the trucks. Gone are the hobby farmers and retirees. Instead, banners advertising business names and employees peddle the goods under protective awnings. Large display tables showcase the harvest year round, making the concept of seasonally grown produce almost obsolete. The term “Organic” is now government regulated.
In this city of concrete and cars, we still crave that connection to the land. As you wander through the Farmer’s Market, zig-zagging through the crowd carrying heavy bags and dragging loaded carts, you are reminded of where our food comes from. Not from cold, grocery store display cases but from hard working people, still willing to get their hands dirty. There are no plastic bags of machine cut carrots. No cellophane wrapped lettuce. This, is the true meaning of organic.
Contributed by Nanette Murray