Years ago, many years ago, I went to the farmers market for the very first time. Before this experience I had never ventured away from my beloved grocery store, which contained everything I could ever need.
Some incredible lessons emerged from that first visit, which started my own personal food revolution.
Food at the grocery store is predictable. The produce is bundled into the perfect proportions, shiny with wax, and gleaming under the most glorious beams of light. The meats and cheeses are sourced from farms thousands of miles away and processed in commercial factories.
The fruits and vegetables at the grocery store are other worldly. You can get anything your heart desires at any time of year. Not a blemish nor a bug on it, everything was perfectly ripe, beautiful, and ready to eat.
At the time I had no idea that the produce was not ready to eat. It was coated in pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. It was fumigated when it got off the ship from foreign countries, or exposed to radiation to “make it safer for consumption” then coated in artificial waxes and placed under glory lights to make it more shiny and appealing to the consumer.
Once I started researching exactly what went into the food at the grocery store, I decided to start making some changes, and the farmers market was the first stop on that journey.
The farmers market proved to be a quick lesson in real food.
When it wasn’t expertly manicured and polished to sell, it looked completely foreign.
This produce was fresh, local, and sustainable. It was handed to me from the very same person that stuck the seeds into the soil, cared for the tiny plants through rough weather, pests, and problems, and harvested the bounty.
At first everything looked unappealing. I was used to my food being displayed as if for a photo shoot. There weren’t mechanized spraying machines to leave little droplets of glory on each perfect little leaf.
The bread wasn’t pre-sliced and the cheese wasn’t sold in printed packages with handy nutrition facts. The apples didn’t gleam, the lettuce didn’t shine, the carrots still had their tops on, and some of them even had specks of dirt on them! Dirt! As if it came from the earth!
Walking into the meat and fish shelter was a horrific experience.
The smell of seafood penetrated the building and with the heat of the day, was making my eyes water.
These fish still had their heads on! They weren’t perfectly cut into steaks, or coated in marinades and placed on a perfect, hygienic, styrofoam plate. These fish were staring at me with their gooey, dead grey eyes.
The meat vendors were selling whole shanks of various animals, as well as hearts, livers, and gizzards. Everything was on the bone, with skin intact or sold whole.
It was almost too much for this recovering vegetarian to handle. I’d become so accustomed to seeing perfect little cuts of meat for sale, not a bone, organ, or foot in sight. Now I was experiencing what meat really looks like.
A little dose of real food reality.
I did stop at a meat vendor, determined to buy a pasture raised roasting chicken. With my entry back into eating meat, I was dead set on buying it from humane and sustainable farmers. They were selling fresh eggs as well, so I figured, why not?
When I got home with my bounty of meat and produce I started sorting through it all. The vegetables all had to be washed. I was disgusted when I dumped it all in the sink to soak and the water turned brown.
Having dirt on my vegetables was something I’d never experienced before.
I picked up a raspberry to pop it into my mouth and a single bug flew off of it as I lifted it.
Bugs!? In my food?! What was this nonsense? How could these people sell me something that has an insect on it??
The chicken was another surprise.
I’d never cooked a chicken whole before. Opening the legs to discover a tiny brown parcel was a whole new level.
Why would someone put that there? I wondered. Maybe it was an accident.
When I pulled it out and opened it up, I realized it was no accident. My stomach turned at the sight of chicken organs in all their unsightly glory.
I cooked the chicken in a roasting pan, not wanting to handle it too much. The reality of this meat with all the skin and the bones and the organs was almost too much for me and when it was finished, I could barely eat it.
The following morning I thought it would be nice to make a tasty veggie omelet for breakfast. I opened the egg carton to discover that they were brown. What did this mean? Were they old? I cracked one open and there was a tiny spot of blood inside. My stomach turned once again.
What was wrong with these people for selling me weird colored eggs with spots inside of them??
Even so, I managed to get through that first week of farmer’s market meals and haven’t turned back.
Fast forward 8 years.
I’ve been growing food in our backyard for years. When there’s dirt and bugs on it, I know it’s because it just came from the ground, as it should.
I’ve gone from feeling nauseated by a chicken carcass to butchering my own chickens.
Those same chickens lay eggs of every shade, and I gladly eat them, even when I do find a spot inside. The taste and quality is incomparable to store bought eggs.
We’re still a year away from having our own farm, so we continue to support local growers at the farmers market for all the food we can’t grow or raise.
Our food is fresh, local, and homegrown.
My entire food world has changed for the better, and now that I’ve seen how good it can get, I could never go back.
Imperfections in food is the norm, not the exception.
Making the switch from grocery store to farmers market allowed me to take our food revolution to the next level, to start growing and raising the things that we eat.
So I encourage you to take that next step. Meet your farmer, shake his or her hand. Thank them for working hard to provide you with food that was ethically raised and produced.
Support them, with your wallet and your favor.
Be part of the revolution!