My observations at the farmers' markets this summer taught me to look at my food in a new way. These local, hard-working people grow vegetables and fruit in the soil of their own land, work that ground every day and and care for those plants with the kind of passion that only gardeners can appreciate. No matter what kind of weather nature throws at them, they do the best they can with a few seeds and a few acres. This year the harvests weren't bad, but I'm sure some years are much worse. They come to the market every week, often with children in tow, sit for hours under a canopy on the hot summer afternoons with the fruits of their labor - organic tomatoes, beans, onions, peppers, etc., and often leave with very few dollars in their pocket and a good bit of produce that was picked, polished, and artfully displayed in beautiful baskets - yet did not sell. I've heard many customers look at their displays and stick their noses up saying things like, "I can get bigger ears of corn at the super market for a lot less."
Then I look at the weekly flyers for discount grocery stores and bulk warehouse stores and see prices that no farmer could compete with. However, I wonder if people realize that with those cheaper prices they are getting a product that was grown somewhere far away from GMO's, sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, picked before maturity, shipped to our local stores (which used thousands of gallons of fuel), and cannot compare in taste or quality to the delicious, organic produce grown from local farmers who care as much about the land as they do the products they grow and sell.
What I didn't grow myself this year I was able to buy from my fellow vendors at the markets. I'm sure I paid a little more money for some things than I would have at my local grocery store, but knowing the food on my table came from local people just like me who are trying to earn a living by the sweat of their brow and yields of their land gave me great satisfaction. I bought as much as I could and canned, froze, dried like crazy in effort to save enough to get my family through the winter without having to buy it from the store. I'll look for bargains elsewhere, but not in the food I put on my table.
Next year we plan to double the size of our garden. I plan to support my local farmers' as much as I can by buying from them what I do not grow myself. Buying from those vendors means supporting small local businesses with strong values and quality products. And when I see those ads for ridiculously low produce at discount grocery stores, I'll remind myself what a treasure we have on the tables of the farmers' markets.