If you know the person who produced your food on a first-name basis, you’re living the dream.
It’s National Farmers Market Week (Aug. 7-13), a time when the USDA secretary and the Farmers Market Coalition tout the political, economic and social benefits of farmers markets in the U.S.
Let them say their piece; we’d rather just eat — maybe a little wood-fired bread from Wadhams smeared with goat’s milk cheese from Au Sable Forks, all washed down with a fruit wine made in Mooers.
From Warrensburg to Wilmington and Plattsburgh to Port Henry, we’re blessed with a variety of local food producers in the Adirondack region, much of it made in the Champlain Valley to the east and the St. Lawrence Valley in the northwest.
For many, a visit to the local farmers market is treated as a quick, weekly chore. In places where the myriad of 10-by-10 tents are set up in fields and parking lots and along riverbanks, there’s usually a beehive of activity — locals and visitors looking for good deals, good eats and good company.
But in places like Saranac Lake, where the farmers market is located in the heart of the village at Riverside Park, the traveling band of agrarian gypsies becomes the center of the community activity for five hours every Saturday. Spend the day, and you’ll see what we mean.
Two weeks ago, we did just that, and we were amazed at what we saw. It was Can-Am Rugby weekend. The village was packed with tourists, cars whizzing by the park on River Street. In the bubble of the farmers market, the traffic was a stone’s throw away, but there was no noise.
With the tents set up in an oval — the band shell at one end and a pair of towering white pine trees at the other — a picnic table in the center, surrounded by green grass, was the center of town. Heck, at the time, it was the center of the universe.
As vendors finished setting up, they were the first to make their rounds and buy some fresh produce, cheese and baked goods for breakfast. Then, over the next five hours, it seemed as though most of the community showed up.
A woman sitting in the band shell played folk and blues tunes, laying the perfect soundtrack for a day at the market.
Locals came by for a croissant and a conversation. The newspaper publisher stopped for fresh vegetables while taking her puppy for a walk. A mortgage broker ran across the grass after buying a dozen eggs. Teenagers cradled bunches of flowers in their arms. Artists, musicians, retirees, state workers, not-for-profit employees, small business owners, people from all walks of life were there, as were tourists, seasonal residents and boaters docking at the Lake Flower behind the tents.
This was a snapshot of the community at its finest. Flowers, cheese, produce and baked goods seemed to sell the best.
We guarantee this: The farmers market will make you smile. Grab a fresh sunflower. Eat a cheese and apple danish. Stick a moose-shaped maple sugar lollipop in your mouth. Stop by one in your community this week, and you’ll see what we mean.
Introduce yourself, find out where the food comes from, and make some new friends.
Learn more about farmers markets in the Adirondack region online at www.adirondackharvest.com.