Fledgling farmers’ markets started up in Massachusetts this year and everyone’s excited—except the farmers. The Boston Globe tells the story of a well-publicized, much-anticipated new market in Marlborough … at which only two farmers showed up. As the town mayor says, the local growers are too busy working their land and there’s no money available for them to train and recruit employees to work the markets.
But in Benton Harbor, Michigan—a town on Lake Michigan where the residents are seriously outnumbered by stone fruit and sour cherries—the problem’s inverted: At the daily market, small farmers, whose fragile fruit is overlooked by brokers buying in truckloads for supermarkets, have a dwindling number of local buyers. A New York Times story describes a recent Friday, when 70 farmers showed up “to sell to a similar number of customers.” The market manager’s complaints are familiar: Even local markets aren’t carrying local crops. It turns out the regulars at this market are area farmers stocking their own farm stands. (As farmers’ market–themed blog Truly Local notes, this is not necessarily a bad thing, “If the reselling is limited and tightly regulated, and the reseller bought it directly from local farmers, and it is clearly identified as resold produce ….”)
Michigan farmers disappointed with small-city markets can always truck to Chicago’s farmers’ markets, where the numerous, though persnickety, customers apparently ask which basket of blueberries has the most antioxidants. That’s according to Fruit Slinger, an endearingly acerbic blog about working for an unidentified Michigan orchard. There’s some serious fruit love here, but, well, there’s also the Boob of the Week competition:
Customer 1: Is your fruit organic?
Customer 1: So you’re trying to kill us with carcinogens, huh?
Paul told her a little bit about our use of pesticides, that many of the products we use are organic and that our spraying is judicious and minimal.
Customer 1 lit up a cigarette. Customer 2 saw this.
Customer 2: You’re worried about organic produce and you’re smoking at the farmers market?
Customer 1: I want to choose my goddamn carcinogens, thank you very much.
Customer 1 (to Paul): What a bitch.
Customer 2 (to Paul): What a bitch.