I sometimes linger at our market simply to listen in on conversations between shoppers and farmers. I learn something new almost every time about how food is grown or how to prepare it, about the vagaries of weather and the details of our local climate. Before we started our market, I didn’t know all that much about where the food I ate came from or how it was grown. Now I know many of the local farmers by name. I have new respect for how hard they work. I follow the local weather reports, knowing that too much rain in the spring or an unexpected freeze can endanger their crops. I’m much more aware of the many challenges they face. I understand that farming is by its nature a precarious business, at the mercy of weather and fluctuating prices. But I’ve also seen firsthand the deep satisfaction farmers take from planting seeds and watching them turn into the foods that nourish us.
By their very nature, farmers’ markets encourage us to buy seasonal produce. As every chef knows, the most beautiful, best-tasting and most economical foods are the ones that are in season. Eating with the seasons is all about anticipation and then savoring what is ripe at the moment—the first tangerines of the winter that light up the market, the season of stone-fruit, then the arrival of heirloom tomatoes, followed by the wild shapes and colors of squash in the late fall. The bounty on display at a farmers’ market at the peak of the season is the very opposite of fast food. It’s food that a farmer has spent months nurturing to the moment of perfect ripeness. It is food to be cherished and savored.