“What’s that?” asked my Little Sister. We were standing under a tent at my local farmer’s market, surrounded on three sides by fresh produce. “I have no idea,” I said as we stood in line waiting to make our purchases. “But he’s got a price list – let’s see what’s on there that we’ve never heard of.” And that’s how we figured out the strange looking thing in front of us was kohlrabi.
It took some time to reach the front of the line, but I didn’t mind because there was so much to take in just standing there. The guy in front of me was buying fresh corn meal. This was the second time in a month that I have met someone who grinds local corn into cornmeal. The farmer was explaining what it could be used for and how to store it. And I knew when my turn came the farmer would patiently answer all my questions, too. I got to the front of the line and asked “What’s that?” as I pointed to what I suspected was Kohlrabi. “That’s a thing called Kohlrabi,” he said. We were right!
The next question I asked is the reason I love Farmer’s Markets: What do you do with it? He explained how to bake it, or that I could roast it, or eat it raw, or put it in salads. I asked what it tasted like, how long it would take to cook, and then said, “I’ll take one.” It was only fifty-five cents. For that much, it was worth the adventure of trying something new.
I moved on to the guy who sells pork and beef. My Little Sister is a vegetarian – or at the stage where she’s trying on the idea. I raved about this guy’s stuff anyway, and when the farmer offered us a taste test of some grilled pork she took some, too. He apologized for not calling me in the spring for tutoring for his son. He explained that his other daughter had been able to help instead. “No problem,” I said. “I’m just glad he got the help he needed.” I then explained to my Little Sister that I had bought meat from this guy over the winter. I went to his house to pick it up as he doesn’t sell at winter farm markets. And during that conversation he found out I tutored math and took my number.
“Now these are wonderful,” he said as he pulled some frozen ham hocks out. “For soups, you mean?” I asked. “Well, you could use them for that, but I just put them in a crock pot, cover them with water, and they just melt off the bone when they’re done.” I’d never bought let alone cooked with ham hocks before. I was in. “All right – I’ll take them. And some of your sweet sausage.” I explained to my little sister, “This is the best sausage ever,” recalling the first time I ever bought meat from him was the day he was offerings tastes of his sausage.
I ran into one of my former high school teachers there, and his wife who is in my crochet group. I introduced my Little Sister and after a chat with them she said, “You know everyone here!” I laughed as we made our way to the bakery tent where I introduced her to the delights of Hello Dolly bars.
And then I realized her comment was just another reason I love farmers markets. Yes, you may run into someone you know at the grocery store. But how often do you meet the people who grow your food? Probably never, because most of them live in California or Florida or Kansas. I first started coming to Farmer’s Markets in an effort to buy local and reduce my environmental impact. Then the additional perks just kept piling up: the food tastes better, there is much more variety, I can look at something and, instead of wondering what it is, I can simply ask and then learn how to make it. I don’t have to wait on long lines being tempted by candy bars on either side of me. I may wait on a line, but everyone on it wants shares similar values to me and wants to chat. A lot of them even have cute dogs with them. And I get to build relationships with local people. People who are doing something they love and want to share it with others. How can you beat that?