AgriCulture

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A few weeks ago, I resolved to finally visit the Wilhelmsplatz Farmers’ Market, which I’d been meaning to do for several years. It took a great sacrifice on my part, getting up early on a Saturday (really: they close at noon; that’s insane) but I like the idea of the locavore movement. I write this while drinking coffee brewed from Tanzanian peaberry beans, but Tanzania is local to someplace, surely, though off the top of my head I couldn’t tell you where.

So I crawled out of bed and drove to the market. I ought to have walked, to underscore the environmental benefits of saving energy by buying locally, but it was really quite hot. And there I discovered blueberries that cost twice what I pay in the store, jars of honey that cost three times what I normally pay, and a whole host of other foodstuffs that were selling for boutique prices.

Now I never took an economics class, but as I figure it, there was no grocery store involved to jack up prices, and the food only traveled a few miles up the road, not a few counties or states or countries. Everything should have been cheaper.

It made me furious– not just because the prices were higher, but because the whole culture of the market was anathema to me. The market was chock full of people, every last one of them white. The farmers, also white, were attractive. The stalls were polished and professional looking. They even took credit cards, for crying out loud.

Here is what I look for in a Farmers’ Market:

  • Cheap prices
  • Customers from every walk of life, but especially from the low-income walk of life
  • Farmers who are scruffy, dirty, overweight, and wearing overalls
  • Farmers who pronounce overalls as “overhauls”
  • Signs that are misspelled and mis-punctuated, i.e., “Cheap cannalopes, fresh blueberry’s”

A farmers’ market should call to mind the poetry of Robert Burns. It should not remind one of the commercialization, gentrification, and globalization of the modern world.

I accuse you, Wilhelmsplatz. This is unconscionable.

Worst of all, I suspect that many, maybe most, of the folks buying goods were oblivious to the perversion of the market. People around here just don’t seem to suffer from class awareness– the constant, incessant, pervasive awareness that every single dollar needs to stretch.

I’d already realized that this is not the city for me, but the farmers’ market experience eloquently makes the case. I need to get out of here.

I also need to get ready for work, right at the moment, so I shall continue this discussion anon. Coming next: places Jessica should consider moving to

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8 responses »

  1. When I was on vacation in Ocean City, Maryland, their dinky little farmers market shocked me at how cheap everything was. Peaches were four for $2. Green beans were $1 for a heaping container. Peppers were 25 cents each!!! And Ocean City is definitely a tourist area like Williamsburg, except replace the colonial theme with a beach theme. I guess the difference is, as you mentioned, one draws in all walks of life, while the one we reside in… not so much.I’ve been meaning to check out the farmers market at the end of Forge Road in Toano, across from the fire station, to see if the prices are any better there.I signed up for a CSA half-share with Dayspring Farm, the folks that came to the library last year to do a Third Thursday presentation on CSAs. It was a hefty price to pay up front, but something like 20 weeks of a grocery bag full of fresh-from-the-farm produce makes it a deal compared to the cost of 20 weeks of buying crappy produce in the grocery store.

    Reply
  2. Our FM in Charleston is a tourist trap also. They have some decent produce, but during summer months the prices rise and the customer base changes. They do have the occasional crazy farmer lady running a stall, of course. Naturally they all want to talk my ear off.I do much better shopping at roadside stands near the house. Real(er) farmers selling their own crops.

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  3. the lesbrarian

    Cara,Let me know about the FM in Toano. And tell me more about the half-share thingy (in person, if you prefer).

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  4. the lesbrarian

    Ianaly,I could sort of forgive our FM if the shoppers were tourists, who by definition deserve to be duped and overcharged. But mainly it’s locals who go there. I yelled at one of my librarian friends who had spoken highly of it: "Why didn’t you tell me about the prices??!?""I never stopped to notice the prices," she admitted. At least she had the decency to look ashamed.

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  5. The one in Toano is better pricewise and diversitywise, but it’s much smaller (just produce) and if you’re looking for organic, I don’t think it has much of that.

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  6. the lesbrarian

    LaFriend,Please. I’ll do local OR organic OR vegetarian, but only one at a time. There is a limit to my capacity for social responsibility. The Toano FM it shall be, if I ever get out of bed before noon on a Saturday again.

    Reply
  7. eleemosenary arcihvist

    As a non-driver have nonetheless noticed fairly regular presence of genuine Farmer kinda roadside stalls just prior to or immediately after entrance to Williamsburg Pottery out on whatever Road that is.Also at corn/ squash harvest time there’s often a simple table & shade-tarp Stand near corner of road heading out to Chicahominy(?)beyond Norge/Richmond Road turnoff.No idea of fuel-to-savings ratio from Croaker Branch but the stands are there prior to noon weekdays.A friend gets fresh unhusked corn,melons,squash at one or the other; swears they’re bargains;BUT o’course the Market by the Theatre is a social venue for folk in $40,000 off-road vehicles with no dirt on the tires;This IS W’burg/sometimes there’s live acoustic instrument music though.Happy weekend shoppin’,EA/tgb

    Reply
  8. Egads, I figured they were Tourist Trap prices! Richmond has a big farmers’ market on 17th Street. It’s pretty good. (Go visit the Poe Museum up Main Street while you’re at it). I have had preservative-free bread from there and bought the cucumbers for pickles there. They’re open on Thursdays & Saturdays, and decent hours too. >^..^<

    Reply

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