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the farm to market road

April 11, 2011

When I was growing up in the U.S. Midwest, I saw lots of secondary roads marked

“FM 24” and other numbers.  My father explained that these routes radiating from

towns to the countryside were farm to market connectors.  Today, with rising con-

cerns about food security, peak oil and frankenfoods, there is a movement to make

these connections short again.

Jude and I want to be connection shorteners.  So Saturday we attended a workshop

called “Growing for Market” at the offices of Lush Valley Food Action Society.  The

leader was Ellen Rainwalker, a savvy lady with a background in permaculture and

ecological agriculture.  She gave a primo presentation to 16 folks eager to sell fruits

and veggies to their friends, neighbours and communities.

Ellen taught us how to choose the best seeds, tools and soil amendments to maxi-

mize our yield.  She showed us how to extend the growing season for year-round

sales. Then after a break featuring outrageously healthy snacks (like fennel spread)

she covered direct marketing, with the emphasis on farmers’ markets.

In the abundance of resource materials Ellen gave us, one item spoke sharply.

It was an ’08 study done by Farmers Market Canada with the help of the federal

government.  It concluded that farmers’ markets across all 10 provinces made

$1.03 billion that year, with a total economic impact triple that.

The study also revealed 92% of all market shoppers polled considered it important

to buy food directly from the farmer who grew it; 62% said it was extremely impor-


The newest stats I could find for the U.S. showed a take of $1 billion in ’05, but it’s

safe to assume that figure is going up.  According to USDA figures and a Washington

Post article, farmers’ markets in the states grew from 1755 in ’94, to 4385 in ’06,

to 5274 in ’09.

I bet you have a pleasant memory of a visit to a farmers’ market.  I’ve been to many

and they’ve all been a flood of wonderful sights, smells and sounds.  In Santa Rosa,

California — where Jude and I met and married — two blocks of the downtown area

are turned into a market every Wednesday night from late May through August.

Another one runs twice a week year-round near the county fairgrounds.

I’m always struck by the good vibes at a farmers’ market.  It seems like the whole

community is there, and on its best behaviour.  The vendors are friendly and en-

thusiastic to share their knowledge.

That same enthusiasm pervaded the workshop.  Participants exchanged support

and information with zeal.  We laughed a lot.  Each of us had a different growing

situation, from a 60-acre farm to a postage-stamp-sized yard.  I hope all of us make

it to market.  To me, this is the very best revolution we could take to the streets.


In unrelated culinary news, my recent post on SPAM inspired me to create another

masterful meal to rival this one.  It’s fried potatoes (or pommes de terre frites, as

they say in Quebec) and an omelette with mushrooms, cheese and SPAM.

Jude thought the SPAM was true ham.  I think the Portobello ‘shrooms confused

her taste buds.  Last night, to honor my “well-known pancake eater” post, she made

these: thick, manly ‘cakes with rolled oats, wheat germ, blueberries, walnuts and

chocolate chips.  And, of course, a thick coating of sirop d’erable.

  1. Charlotte Wales permalink
    April 11, 2011 3:02 pm

    We have two wonderful farmer’s markets in Little Rock; hope to develop one here, so people can increase their income and so others can eat more healthily with fresh foods. I loved the pics of your food – – except for the spam! That’s parts, Allen, not ham, parts – the leftovers from ham processing! I eat a lot of veggie meals, not much meat, but NEVER will spam or vienna sausages cross these lips! It’s really exciting that ya’ll will be working towards a farmer’s market! I’m writing a grant (another one, that is!) to send us for training to build hoop houses for year-round growing – also to build two hoop houses and pay for the plants, soil, etc., as demonstration sites for the Delta region. Say prayers for us that the grant will come through!

    • April 11, 2011 4:25 pm

      My thoughts and wishes are with you for your grant application. Sometimes the reasoning of a grant committee is more complex than any deity. I didn’t mention in the post that our island already has a farmers’ market. It’s been growing steadily. We also have a wonderful community garden just starting its third year. I’m nonplussed that Hormel is passing off parts as a classic American food. It’s a sad day in U.S. history when you can’t trust a corporation.

  2. Chris permalink
    April 12, 2011 10:37 pm

    SPAM notwithstanding, that looked like quite a tasty meal! Si on demeure a Quebec on dit “patates frites” – c’est le patois.

    It would be nice to have a local farmer’s market up here.

    • April 13, 2011 9:06 am

      Hey, neighbour. Yes, maybe a monthly market at one of our homes with accompanying party/pot luck. I’d like to see each family grow at least one different item so we’d have a wider variety of choices.

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