Why is it so exciting to come across a roadside stand or farmers’ market selling locally grown produce and homemade products?
As a child, I found it so confusing that people would shop at these places when they could so easily go to the store. Now, as an adult, I understand the importance of knowing where my food is coming from. And having many friends who own their own businesses, I understand the importance of buying local and supporting your community.
When I was much younger, my grandparents had a garden that allowed them the opportunity to grow the food they liked and store up extras for later use. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized they, along with friends who had gardens, would give extra produce to those who didn’t grow their own.
If you grow your own food, you know how much work goes into it, and seeing that work go to waste is not an option. If you grow more than your family can consume, what do you do with the excess? You can give it away. You can set up by the side of the road to sell it. Or you can come together with others in your community to provide goods to others who want to shop locally in a farmers’ market that has a variety of products.
St. Joseph has a few outdoor markets where consumers can buy fresh, healthy food from local growers. These markets run into the fall to extend the selling season and increase the variety of available produce.
“As the seasons change, so do the products,” said Jessica Witt, a vendor at the Southside Junction Farmers’ Market. “Right now, our focus is on getting people started with their own growing providing tomato plant starts and strawberry plants. We have early garden produce to eat, including lettuces and radishes and have cooked up some fruit jams. As the year progresses, we will have tomatoes, melons, squashes, pumpkins, peppers, sunflowers, potatoes, carrots and onions.”
The market was developed several years ago to fill a need and alleviate a food desert in the south end of St. Joseph. Food deserts, not uncommon in urban areas where fresh, healthy food may be harder to find, can benefit from a farmers’ market. Witt, who has been a vendor for the past few years, also sells coffee, baked goods, a variety of soaps and candy at her stand. Another regular vendor sells Dexter beef and fresh eggs.
“Some weekends see more traffic than others and have more products available, but the market is open on Saturday mornings from 8 to noon, rain or shine, through the end of September,” Witt said. “It’s a great way to meet others in the community, to support local producers and enjoy a Saturday morning.”
Witt said farmer’s markets are a good option for community sharing and people who are interested in growing their own gardens can buy starter plants and get advice from vendors.
“I think that markets are important because people are wanting to know more and more where their stuff is coming from,” says Witt. “The South Side wants to support the community and build the market.”
In building the market and supporting the community, people are building relationships and getting to know each other.