Sustainability means supporting neighbors

Recently, I visited a farmers market ... in Queens, N.Y.

I was in Queens visiting family and had the opportunity to stroll a couple blocks to a pretty impressive farmers market held weekly in the Sunnyside neighborhood.

It was a nice market set up next to a playground along a major thoroughfare.

There was a lot to see, taste, and buy. A wide selection and a bunch of stuff you just don’t see in farmers’ markets around our area.

There was huge variety of vegetables, including some of the more “exotic” items rarely seen around the Osceola County area. (I’m guessing some of the ‘market’ for such veggies is a result of the ethnic diversity in Queens.)

There was a stand with a wide range of pickles — pickles of all kinds. The great thing about the pickle stand was that you could get little tastes of all these delicious offerings, and I love pickles.

There was a cheese vender selling organic, raw milk cheeses. Absolutely wonderful. Stunningly tasteful.

There were people selling artisan breads, fresh juice blends with all sort of mixtures, a tempting variety of honey products, and some great baking with both standard fare and gluten free choices. There reportedly is a supposedly fantastic vegan carrot cookie for sale. I can’t bear witness to how good it really might be since they were sold out at 8:30 a.m. — and the market opens at 9 a.m.!

There was all kind of stuff for sale at this market.

It was great.

There was a big, Big, BIG difference, however, between this and the markets we have in our extended neighborhood.

Sure, there were a lot of things in this Queens, N.Y., market that I don’t suppose we’ll see anytime soon around here — in Osceola or Mecosta counties.

BUT ... at “home” I have a pretty good chance of knowing one, two, or all of the venders at any given market I visit. And even if I don’t necessarily know them personally — by name — I know they are from my “neighborhood.”

And that, gentle readers, is important ... at least to me.

Sure. Organic or naturally raised and produced foods is a good thing, but even better is knowing not only who planted, raised, and produced the foods I’m buying, and also knowing that I am helping my neighbors make a go of it.

I’m glad the folks in Queens have an opportunity to buy good, healthful food. (Actually, I’m afraid they have more opportunity to buy healthier food stuffs at more reasonable prices that we do in this part of the State of Michigan.)

But when I shop at farmers’ markets in Evart, Hersey, Reed City, LeRoy, and in Big Rapids and Cadillac, I’m helping neighbors make a go at sustainable farming.

I know these people.

I know what they are trying to do.

I’m happy to support them.

Not only kinda philosophically, (as in Queens), but in a very personal and practical way — by shelling out a little of my hard earned cash to buy products they are raising in order to make a little hard earned cash.

When I buy at a farmers market in Queens, I’m supporting farms in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, as well as out on Long Island.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

But ... when I by organic milk from Hilhof Dairy — I’m supporting people I know. Folks who live down the road.

When I buy produce or meat from the Evart Farmers Market - I’m buying from people I know like the Morgan’s and the Elders.

When I buy in LeRoy or Hersey, I recognize the venders. Some are Amish neighbors, some are non-Amish. They’re all working hard to make a go of it.

It’s all about sustainability.

Not just the sustainability of farming, but the sustainability of farmers in my area.

I love to know that the people I buy from are fully committed to the crops they raise and animals they farm.

It’s good to buy food from folks who I know are facing an uphill slog when in competition from big box stores around the area.

That isn’t to say I won’t be buying produce from the big dealers — in the winter.

But this summer, (and for a while yet), we get our veggies through a Community Supported Agriculture program run by Chris Swiers and his family outside of Barryton. There are other such programs in our area, (the Morgans run one.) While supporting CSA, you know who planted, who raised and who harvested the lettuce, spinach and other goodies crossing your plate.

That’s a good thing.

Farmers markets are great operations anywhere you bump into one.

Shopping at farmers’ markets in our own neighborhoods is even more satisfying.

Not only is the food good, but you’ll bump into folks you know, and support all kinds of good people living in your own community.

That’s real sustainability.