The truth is I’ve always loved farmers’ markets. I love to cook, and farmers’ markets are the best place to find the freshest vegetables and fruits of the season. The farmers’ market offers all the inspiration my wife and I need to make something special for dinner, whether it’s a homemade pizza with leeks, tomatoes, feta and prawns or an asparagus-potato frittata. Thanks to farmers’ markets, we’ve been introduced to fruits and vegetables we didn’t know much about before, such as kohlrabi (a Sputnik-looking relative of cabbage with a mild, sweet taste, perfect raw or baked into a gratin).
Farmers’ markets keep us in touch with the seasons in a way I have come to cherish—the arrival of asparagus and the first luscious strawberries in the spring, sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes and succulent fresh corn at the height of summer, a rainbow cornucopia of peppers and squash come fall, and winter’s citrus crop and savory root vegetables, which we love to roast with chunks of fennel, a recipe we discovered by hanging out at farmers’ markets.
As a physician, I know that a diet built around fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables like these is the cornerstone of preventive medicine. I also know that like most people, my colleagues—doctors, nurses, staff members—as well as our patients, are so busy they don’t always have time to go to a farmers’ market.
Why not, I found myself thinking, bring the market to them? I didn’t know the first thing about running a farmers’ market. But it didn’t take me long to find the director of a local farmers’ market association who enthusiastically agreed to help. After months of planning, on May 16, 2003, a bright and breezy spring day, our first farmers’ market opened for business. It was like a block party. People poured out of the hospital. There was a palpable sense of excitement. I think everyone there understood right away the connection between good food and good health. People really caught the spirit of it. It was a day I’ll never forget.
As far as I know, ours was one of the first farmers’ markets ever established at a major medical center. To be honest, when it first started, I didn’t know whether or not it would survive. Five and a half years later, it’s still open for business and drawing enthusiastic crowds every Friday. As a primary-care physician, I take pride in having helped many people focus on the basics for good health. I’m also proud to have helped create our thriving farmers’ market—and not just because people love shopping here. I love what it says about our health-care program. And I love what it says about our community.