The last Downtown Growers Market of the season was held this weekend and that makes me sad, sad, sad. Farmers' markets are as constant to our transient experience as gymnastics or school (actually, moreso). We become attached.
I came across an essay recently about the importance of the farmers' market model by Raymond Saul, a founder of the Hollywood Farmers' Market, and especially loved this section:
The mercantile purpose is, of course, the raison d’être for the market and the one that farmers and customers immediately recognize. But, I contend markets are culturally significant for two more reasons – reasons that I characterize as social and civic. In my experience, these two aspects are not always fully-developed in farmers markets. This situation always saddens and frustrates me, because I believe all three purposes are important and complementary.
By social purpose, I mean that a farmers market can be an important social event in the life of a community. It is a meeting place that encourages friendly interactions. Food shopping is a weekly event – thus increasing repeated social interactions. I contend that for many customers, the social aspect of many farmers markets may be as important as the mercantile.
By civic purpose(s), I mean that farmers markets can be community-building, community-defining and community-sustaining institutions.
This is exactly why I love going to farmers' markets so much. From Great Falls to Arlington to Cheyenne to Montgomery and more, the habit of making ourselves regulars at the local market is one of the things that helps ease our adjustment to a new assignment in a new city. What's being sold is always a surprise—not just from market to market, but sometimes from week to week—and no experience is ever the same, really. But it's the going that provides so much comfort and familiarity. The Downtown Growers Market joins the list of markets that have fulfilled all three of those culturally significant purposes for us, and for that I am grateful.