Sunday, May 04, 2008

Forest Hill Farmers Market

Two new growers markets opened in Richmond this weekend: The Lakeside Market (which I will investigate on Wednesday, its other day) and the Forest Hill Farmers Market. The latter is being run by the same folks who launched the Byrd House Market in Oregon Hill last year. They are pulling in some excellent growers—Victory and Amy's Farms, among others—and excellent meat producers.

Perhaps the most notable aspect thing I was was the community involvement. This was the first day of a market that had received some publicity, but had hardly been plastered everywhere. Still, the place was packed before nine-thirty, and some of the vendors had begun to run out of the stocks they'd brought. As the guy at Amy's told me, "Who knew it'd be this big? I guess we'll have to bring more next time. Selling out by nine-thirty is just crazy." Crazy indeed, until you factor in how desperate many people in Richmond have been for the opening of an honest-to-god Saturday morning farmers market.

Frankly, there's no substitute for the sense of community you feel at such markets. Whether you're in Leyden or Fayetteville or New York or—now—Richmond, the connection to community and food source is irreplaceable. You run into neighbors and co-workers; you develop relationships with the people who produce your food; you make a moral decision that connects you directly to the soil and air within your region. After all, I would far rather pay a little more to purchase my meat from the people who actually raised the animals than to pay a supermarket for meat that came—even in the case of the low organic varieties—from some generic farm a few thousand miles away. I'd rather pay the same for carrots or lettuce that were raised a few dozen miles away rather than a few thousand.

As much as we live in and cannot truly escape a consumerist society, making decisions like choosing local production and connections mitigates some of the evils of the market by channeling our dollars into the local economy and small business grounded in nearby soil rather than the silk-lined purses of the agribusinesses.*

* My fear about the success of markets here is that the agribusiness lobby is very, very strong in Virginia. I do not trust that the corporations won't make an effort to co-opt or—at the very least—hinder the markets and locavore movement here.