April 23, 2007
By Annie SpiegelmanHere in Marin County, we are blessed to live in an area so abundant with family farms, historic ranches and local businesses offering fresh, organic, homegrown produce. We are gastronomically spoiled! Twenty years ago, the Marin Farmers Market Association was created as a non-profit organization for the mutual benefit of the farmers and consumers. When we shop at our local farmer’s markets, the middleman is eliminated, so our money goes directly to the hardworking farmers and our produce is fresher and much more nutritious.
I mean why suffer through eating 4-6 servings of fruits and vegetables each day if the nutrients are all lost in travel? I may as well go back to my favorite breakfast of non-champions: the holy chocolate croissant and a cup of muddy Jo. Right?Leah Smith is the new outreach director of the Marin Farmers Market. Smith, a lifelong advocate for teaching sustainable agriculture to children, has worked in the past at Slide Ranch, Malt and EECOM. I asked her some questions about this year’s farmer’s market:Why should we shop at farmer’s markets when we can get a cheap shiny apple, “made in China,” at the Pic-N-Save supermarket?Shopping at the farmer’s market means you’re buying direct and fresh from small local farmers. On average, fruits, vegetables and other edibles found at the Marin Farmers Market are grown on small farms within a 150-mile distance from the market in San Rafael, often even closer. Nowadays, the typical food item on a store shelf travels on average 1600-2100 miles, often changing hands between shippers and distributors several times over several days before arriving on the store shelf—and the farmer gets very little of every dollar spent on that item. Produce at the farmer’s market is most often picked that morning or the day before—and the farmer is supported directly with the whole amount of your purchase.Why should we teach kids about composting? Will there be a plasma, flat screen somewhere in the garden?Teaching composting means you are teaching about the cycle of life and death. Composting is decomposition and it teaches kids in a tangible way how food waste is a resource for other organisms that then turn that waste into natural fertilizer that then helps start the cycle again of generating new life. School gardens are a great way to teach life cycles. By helping students become literate—ecoliterate—they understand the way natural cycles work. When students feel more of a sense of connection to other living things and to each other, they become stewards of the land, and they learn things of value in the real world of soil, food and insects!What is the new “Marin Farmers Market Distribution Program” and how will it behoove ME?”If you want to have locally grown food wherever you or your children go to eat in Marin, encourage your local restaurant, corporate cafeteria, school, hospital, or other food service program to buy from the Marin Farmers Market. We’re pleased to have launched a program that now serves people of all ages locally grown food from sustainable farms. The Marin Farmers Market distribution program is aimed at helping businesses and organizations, which serve large groups of people, source their products locally. We offer a full range of local products—from conventional to transitional to organic and beyond organic, and including preserves, mushrooms, dried fruits and nuts, oils, vinegars, juices and lots of produce! Ordering through this program is an easy way to get a wonderful diversity of products from close to home.Will there be more organic produce available at the Farmers Market this year? You know “green” is the new pink, don’t you?Yes. Recently awarded by the Pacific Sun as the Best Place for Organic Produce, the Civic Center Marin Farmers Market has 44 % organic vendor participation, and it has been increasing every year. We are pleased to be able to provide a venue for farmers to stay in business, some of whom are transitioning from conventional practices to organic, and to facilitate the exchange of ideas and exposure to sustainable farming concepts. We support all local sustainable farms.Organic is great, and local is what we emphasize here at the Marin Farmers Market. An organic tomato from Central America does not represent sustainable to us. Buying local means you have a relationship with the farmer and can ask questions about why they choose a certain technique. Personally, I have always been pleasantly surprised how freely any farmer is willing to share why he or she farms the way they do. Farming is a big job, and one that I humbly respect. Thank you to the Marin farmers and producers for feeding me . . . and you!