How the Farmers Market Is a Boon to the Local Economy
by Melissa LaScaleia
It’s May, and time to welcome the return of the DeVille Street Farmers Market in the Market Common.
Last year, we introduced the community to some of the farmers and vendors who frequent the market and share their produce as well as other sundries with us.
This year, we decided to explore how the local market can shape the fabric not only of our community, but communities in general.
Markets where artisans and purveyors sell their goods and produce have existed for as long as trade has. But in recent years, the popularity of farmers markets has taken ahold of America and become a mainstream trend.
In a world that can often feel overwhelmingly impersonal, complex and hectic, a trip to the farmers market is a reconnection to simplicity and to the earth. It’s humbling in its no-frills wholesomeness.
People come for a variety of reasons— to support local farmers and craftsmen, to enjoy the ambience, to have a different shopping experience— one that is out-of-doors, community-driven, and fun.
They appreciate meeting the farmers who grow their food, learning about them and their growing practices— often forging relationships. The pace at the market is slower, as people take in the sights, smells and sounds with more deliberateness than they might otherwise.
Healthy produce is another reason many come to the market. Last year, when I spoke to Ben and Carol Williams, owners of Millgrove Farms, and vendors at the DeVille Street market, they shared with me some interesting facts about the shelf life of produce.
After three days, greens loose 80% of their nutritional value. Most produce at the grocery store comes from California, and it takes 5 days to reach the East Coast. Compare that to the freshness of produce that was picked that morning, and traveled a much shorter distance before it reached your plate.
Many people are drawn to farmers markets because they are an opportunity to say yes to slowing down and enjoying what is available to you, in the place in which you live. It’s a recognition of the place you are, and a celebration of it too. It’s a chance to show your appreciation for what is right around you, locally, in a tangible way—by buying what it is that you appreciate that you also can use. And this choice, though individual and small, affects the entire community for the better.
In many ways, we’ve become a culture that has traded beauty for convenience— exchanging moments of delight for moments of quickness. But a society without beauty becomes disconnected from joy. A society that doesn’t notice the beauty and blessings all around it becomes disconnected from its surroundings, and there becomes a rift in the fabric of the community.
When we think of a strong community, we think of the people who comprise it. We look at what they do, how they think and act, and what they value. We expect them to have pride for and joy in the place they live. We think of people who themselves are happy, healthy and strong, and that also means stable economically.
As chef Joe Bonaparte director of the Myrtle Beach Culinary School in the Market Common once told me, “If the consumer only wants to buy McDonalds, then we don’t have jobs for our students. But additionally, farmers don’t want to grow the produce, because there’s no one to buy it.”
It creates a ripple affect.
And ultimately, what’s available to us becomes more and more large corporations that are running a business, rather than sharing a talent, nurturing a passion, or nurturing others. With economics their main motivating factor, healthy, tasty, high quality food takes the back seat rather than center stage.
In the same vein, personal connections, local pride— even local knowledge starts lacking. We become like forgotten colonies groaning under the rule of some far-away monarch, that has no connection or relevance to what is important to our unique community.
Compare this with the philosophy of Millgrove Farms, for whom it’s important to be stewards of the land:
“We are sustainable farmers; and that means that you don’t do anything to alter anything. We will lose a crop and move on to the next one before we will damage a crop in any way. We don’t spray. We want to choose that natural balance of the land, to where it works symbiotically and everything takes care of itself.
“We see the entire farm as a living breathing organism right down to the dirt, and we want to maintain that, and for it to be here 100 years from now, just as God planned it. We want it to be a place for wildlife. It all goes back to being appreciative of God’s creation. We just believe that we should be taking care of our garden, which is the earth itself. We want to provide clean, affordable, healthy food to the county.”
It’s important to understand how our buying choices— how we sustain ourselves in our community—impact our community. When we buy local, we support the local economy, and we provide jobs for people who live in our community. We all live a better life when we can be healthier, when we get what we need, and by our choices, help others do the same.
When we say yes to the local farmers who grow our food, we say yes to valuing food that is fresh, experiences that are beautiful, and interactions with our community that are meaningful.