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View From the Green

Support More Than Just Agriculture at Farmers Market

 

By Adair Mali

It’s July, and it finally feels like summer here in the Icebox (at least some of the time)! The Norfolk Farmers Market is up and running, with farmers and artisans setting up shop in front of the Town Hall every Saturday. Each weekend, my husband and I load up coolers full of goat cheese and head to markets. Lost Ruby Farm is in its fifth year licensed to sell our French-inspired goat cheeses at markets in Norfolk, Millerton, Collinsville, and Cornwall. At most of the markets we attend it feels like we’re picking up steam, building a regular customer base, educating and engaging new people. But here in Norfolk, it feels . . . flat.

Other vendors feel it too, and the market has lost several popular vendors in the last few years. Even in the six weeks since the 2017 summer season began, there are several vendors who have decided not to return. A successful farmers market requires a full complement of great vendors selling things people want and great customers. We have great vendors (we could use a few more!) but we’d love to see more customers. Something is missing this year, and it might be you! Here are some good reasons to support the Norfolk Farmers Market.

Support your good health. Many of the vendors sell produce that has been raised following organic principles, whether they are certified or not. This typically means they use management practices rather than chemicals to control weeds and pests. Many people have a mental image of where their food comes from—red barn, cheerful farmer in overalls and a straw hat, happy animals, perfect rows of crops without a weed in sight. This image doesn’t acknowledge the large industrial agriculture operations that produce much of the food available in supermarkets, nor does it include the chemical herbicides and pesticides on which they depend. If you want food that has been produced without chemicals, come to the Farmers Market!

Support your neighbors. Market guidelines require vendors to produce 70 percent of what they sell, and everything must be grown or produced within 50 miles of Norfolk. Many of the owners are owner-operators of small farms or businesses. Supporting the Farmers Market means you are supporting local businesses.  Buying local also means you can easily visit the places where you food is being produced and see for yourself. At Lost Ruby Farm, we welcome visitors because it gives us a chance to show people how we make cheese and why we are so passionate about it. Kids love a visit to the farm, and in the spring there are baby goats to bottle-feed.

Support the downtown. The Farmers Market is a big draw for people from surrounding areas. At the Lost Ruby Farm tent, we have regular customers who come from Colebrook, Winsted, Torrington, Canaan, Sandisfield and Sheffield. Those who come from towns that have their own markets tell us they come for the atmosphere. There are even regulars who come from up to an hour away. While these folks are in town on a Saturday they also visit stores and restaurants in the downtown. We know several people that recently moved to town that tell us one of the reasons they moved here was because they came to the Farmers Market. They felt the spirit of the town and it drew them here.

Support your budget. People ask “Why should I buy at the Farmers Market when I can get everything at Walmart, or Stop and Shop for less?” I’d say that is a false equivalence. A Farmers Market carrot is NOT the same as a Walmart carrot! Everything at the market is hyper-local and super fresh. None of it has been trucked in from somewhere else. This makes a difference in flavor and nutrition! At Lost Ruby we make our fresh cheeses late in the week, usually on Friday, so we can sell them within 24 hours of packaging them. We have chosen to stay small, so our products are a little more expensive. We could probably achieve some economies of scale if we had more goats or bought milk from another goat farm, but we choose to stay small so that we have tight control over the entire process of making cheese. Staying small helps us make the best cheese possible.

Support your view. Living in “the country” as we do requires that some of it stay country. Buying from farmers at the Farmers Market helps keep those farms alive, which helps keep fields open. Failing farms get sold and turned into housing or retail. Support the market to keep local farms alive. If you like long views over open fields, support the market. Every dollar you spend at a local farm or business is like a vote for keeping it going.

Support your connections. In our hyper-connected, wired world we can shop from home, stay “connected” with far-flung friends and family, and get the latest updates, all without leaving the house. A trip to the Farmers Market is an antidote to that. It is a community event; on its best days, there’s a festival atmosphere. The market is dog-friendly and full of friendly people—your neighbors! It’s a great place to go to catch up on the latest town news and see people you haven’t seen in a while.

Support your mental health. Customer service at the market is unparalleled! Chances are good you’ll be talking to the owner. There is no waiting on hold listening to weird music, while being assured that “your call is important to us.” That’s got to be good for your mental health!

Supporting the Farmers Market is an investment in Norfolk. If you want it to be there in the future, supporting all these things, please come to see us at the Market, even if it’s just to say hi.

And if that doesn’t convince you, here are a few more reasons to come to the Farmers Market: Fresh strawberries, ripe tomatoes, live music, crisp apples, locally made jewelry, delicious cheese (of course). I could go on, but I think you get the point. I hope you’ll come and see us at the Farmers Market next Saturday!

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