Farmers markets used to confuse me. I always wondered whaaaaaat am I’m supposed to be doing there? Just buying little bits of things? Jams and crops and hand made goods? Like a crafts fair with foods. Right? Hand made granola and soaps and teas. 

Stuff I CAN BUY AT A NORMAL GROCERY. Items I can purchase for half the price while also picking up a new toothbrush, some aluminum foil, and maybe a pack of Coke if this week’s commercials were particularly convincing. SO I always wondered why the hell do I need to be going to an upgraded flea market with upgraded prices? There isn’t even a bathroom?!

In truth, at first, and for a long time – I didn’t need to go to farmers markets. I’d go because it sounded like an interesting thing to do. It looked cool or at the very least different (but mostly it was the cool hip natural green supporting local small business factor that got me there.) So I’d go and try to spend as little money as I could because come on – those prices are not the prices that poor lower middle class me can regularly afford. 

$7 per lb for a pasture raised chicken? Uhhhh do you happen to have a 1 lb chicken available?…

To this day my Filipina mother will still shop at the base exchange (PX or BX for those that know) – and her garage is full of marked down kitchen appliances, BOGO items, and things that she purchased but has never opened – just because it’s a GREAT DEAL. And while that perspective has not 100% been passed down to me, a good 34% of it is in my thinking. Rarely if ever will you find such shopping steals at a farmers market, which means that early on – I was more likely to leave with nothing than leave with anything.

Watermelon snow stand from the Good Food Truck at the Grant Park Farmer’s Market

Four months ago that changed. I was at the beginning of my recovery (Autoimmune, nearly dying, re-learning how to breathe and walk) and I needed better food. Not only that – I needed something to do with my son on Sunday mornings while Leah was working and he was bored. So we went to the Grant Park Farmers Market. I started cooking food specifically on the AIP (AutoImmune Protocol) diet which meant that I had brand new eyes. It was important for me to see the produce and discover some new healthier options. Particularly some new vegetables. 

Kohlrabi, wood sorrel, all the green leaf things that I would never touch, and root vegetables with any color in them – I was interested. The quickest way to find out how to prepare them, or any basics about any of the produce was simply to ask the person selling the goods. 

How do you eat this? How do you cook it? What does it taste like? Ohhhhhhhhh.

Unlike your local and convenient chain grocery store – often times it was the same person(s) attending to the booths each week. So it’s easy to get to know these people beyond the vegetables or goods they’re selling. While I wouldn’t call myself an introvert – I’ve also never been one of those people who can talk to anyone and strike up a conversation about seemingly nothing. But after my experience over the past year – it’s been impressed upon me that we need each other. We as in all of us people on this planet, need each other.

People, and getting to know people, and not being afraid of humans – is a big focus of mine these days. Even in the face of any crippling people anxiety that creeps up from time to time. *deep breath*

Along with getting to know the various peoples that are there every week selling goods – all of a sudden I started seeing persons that I knew in real life (or online but not real life). People I hadn’t seen in months or even years in real life – but kept up with through social media – would be there on Sunday mornings. Not every person on every Sunday – maybe one, two, or three, but enough that I look forward to seeing who’s going to appear. 

Oh yeah – I also have this other rule I follow these days – that if I see someone out and about that I know/kind of know/maybe know – then I will say Hi. It’s more of a ‘Hi I see you and acknowledge your existence in this sea of people‘. No additional commitment for an actual conversation needed – but if conversation happens then… yessssssss.

Of course the better farmers markets have something to entertain kids. Definitely a few treat vendors (popsicles, or something) – and at least a green space for them to run around. Or even better – an actual park/playscape. Otherwise you might as well bring your 5-year old to a boring flea market. Not a recipe for a long visit which means I might instead just make a quick run through the chain grocery store. 

Coming back to the question – how do I farmers market? And why?

Maybe it’s a walking light brunch where I see friends, and my kid willingly attends without too much struggle where I leave with some foods for later. 

Yeah that sounds about right.