Sunday, June 7, 2015

Where I Went Today: Kittery Community Market

Two winters ago, I participated in community-supported agriculture for the first time. I loved it. I split a share with a woman at work and we both received more than enough food to last between drop-offs. For five months (that’s how long winter lasts in New England), we enjoyed potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, spinach, beans, cabbage, garlic, berries (frozen), herbs, sweet potatoes, and squash all grown at local farms. Occasionally we received bread, butter, cornmeal, and oats, as well.

That was a rewarding experience. I got fresh produce that was grown locally and I knew I was giving money directly to small farms. Since then, actually, it pains me to buy produce any place that doesn’t offer a little background information on the food. I look forward to opportunities to visit local food shops and farmers’ markets whenever I can.

When I found out that a local community market—for farmers and craftsmen alike—switched its schedule from Wednesdays to Sundays (my usual day off), I knew I would be there for the season’s launch.

That was today. I wore shorts out in public for the first time since last summer. It was a glorious day to make that decision—families were out with all kids in tow, dog-walkers abounded, and the vendors were all grateful to have brought tents to protect their plants and goods from the sun.

Not surprisingly, I ran into many familiar faces, but I saw some new ones, too. You never know what you’re going to see at an event like a community market. I met a friendly pair selling honey and beeswax products, maple syrup, and tea made from chaga mushrooms. I bought an ounce of these—according to Dana Masse, who was running the stand, in eastern cultures these mushrooms are used medicinally, and in at least one country Olympic athletes are required to take them to remain healthy. I was most interested in them because of their anti-cancer properties. As a person who’s had a series of (benign) tumors removed, I gravitate toward foods with immune-system-enhancing and detoxifying characteristics. I sampled the tea at their stand. It was delicious.

I also chatted briefly with a delightful gentleman named Phil Walsh, who was selling his distinctive handmade pottery. I was drawn to his display because of the unusual items in his collection—first, a sponge holder, which I thought was frankly genius; and then a berry colander, which was, again, genius (why pick berries into a bucket, rinse them in a colander, and then serve them in a bowl when you could have one dish that satisfies all three functions?), and also gorgeous. I made a mental note to check out his Etsy shop.

I arrived only an hour into the market, but when I stopped by the stand of my fellow entrepreneur, Andrew McCook, he had all but sold out of his McCookies products. Good for him. 

I made a few small purchases and bought myself lunch, but mostly I walked around and enjoyed the time outside. There was plenty to see and more than enough people to talk to, so it was a relaxing way to spend my Sunday morning. Several of the vendors who plan to be at the market throughout the season could not make opening day; I plan to visit again before the end of summer to see the other small businesspeople who are making a living doing what they love. Also, because we’ve only just started getting into warmer weather, most of the farm stands were selling seedlings rather than food—it will be fun to go back closer to fall when peppers and tomatoes are available.

If you’ve never visited a farmers’ market or contributed to community-supported agriculture, I highly recommend it. It’s a great place to begin putting your money back into your local economy. Run a search on farmers’ markets in your area, then take a day to wander, shop, and just talk to people. You’ll feel good about the food you purchase, and you might even make a friend or two along the way.

(I have no idea what this parrot was doing at the market, but he was quite the ham, and more than ready for his closeup. So here he is.)

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