Urban Farmers' Markets and a Sense of Place

| 3/27/2009 4:16:00 PM

Brent and LeAnna Alderman StersteWhen I first started traveling to New York City for work, I was fascinated by the glamour of city life.  I stayed in fancy hotels (at least by my family’s standard!), ate in very nice restaurants (ditto), and spent my free time just walking around, being a part of the energetic rush of the city.  By my third visit though, I wasn’t really having fun anymore.  I was tired of the intense hurry everyone was in.  I was becoming annoyed with how impersonal and self-obsessed the culture felt.  I was disheartened by wandering through stores that not only could I not afford, but I was discovering, I had no desire to even aspire to afford.  So on my most recent business trip, I decided to take my family along for entertainment.

A View of New York City from the CBS Building

I only had to work Friday, so we’d have all day Saturday to ourselves.  That Friday, despite some of the best sushi I’ve ever eaten and a pair of designer knock-off sunglasses from a street vendor, my experience was still about the same.  I found myself in the middle of Manhattan just wanting to run screaming out of town.

Given all that frustration, I think I was well prepared for and deeply in need of Saturday’s discovery.  Heading down toward Greenwich Village to have brunch with some friends, my family and I got off the subway in Union Square and after struggling to wrangle our double stroller up the  handicap-inaccessible exit stairs, walked into the middle of the largest farmer’s market I’d ever seen.   We were surrounded on every side by apples, chicken and quail eggs, micro-greens, mushrooms, bunches of freshly cut pussy willows, potted tulips, goat cheese, and maple syrup.

Union Square’s Saturday Farmers Market

My mood changed instantly as we walked back and forth through the market, visiting farm stands from upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and even Western Massachusetts.  I felt certain that my dear wife, LeAnna, would soon grow sick and tired of hearing me repeat, “This is amazing!  I love this!  This is fantastic!  Do we have room for pussy willows in our luggage?  We don’t right?  Really, there’s no way we could pack them …”  But if she was annoyed, she never really let on.  What I suspect is that she herself was drawn in by what was, for us, an exciting, refreshing discovery.

Brent _1
4/29/2009 2:38:05 PM

Thanks to you both, Lacy and Cindy, for your spot-on comments. You make me further realize that my people are the people who get this. It's been great to figure that out about myself. It can make travel difficult, but makes my real life much more satisfying. Thanks for writing and sharing your stories!

Razor Family Farms
4/24/2009 9:38:30 PM

Oh, I AM that killjoy. I loved this post and completely understand. When I first met my husband, I'd just moved from rural Virginia (with emerald rolling hills dotted with sheep and cattle) to the busy city of Seattle. At first, I was entranced. It was so different from my home but soon I felt lost in that Jim Croce song, "New York's Not My Home" and kept spending my time at the market place suffering the fish market smells in order to see the vegetables. The vegetables were sort of a proof of life assurance and it ultimately got me through until I was married and gardening in suburbia. Excellent post! Lacy Razor NEWS @ Razor Family Farms (GRIT.com blog) www.razorfamilyfarms.com (my own site)

Cindy Murphy
3/27/2009 8:17:26 PM

I think I know what you mean, Brent - I experienced a similar thing this week when my husband asked me to tag along with him to Chicago, (I was his GPW - Global Positioning Wife - and it's a wonder we made it to his appointment on time). It was just a quick day trip; we had to be back before our youngest's school let out, so we didn't do a whole lot of walking in the city. The thing that struck me - kind of left me feeling pensive, actually - was the drive. The sky threatened rain the entire day, though we only drove through a brief shower along the way. It was gray and gloomy, which made the drive through some of the most depressing scenery I've seen in a long time all the more dreary. The smoke-stacks, steel-yards, and boarded up or run-down houses along the highway near Gary, Indiana was a stark contrast to the farmland we'd just driven through. Just a short time earlier, my nose was pressed to the window, almost like a kid, watching those tractors - the first I've seen this year - till the soil, aerating and readying the fields for this season's crops. We took a different route home - a little bit longer to avoid construction - and drove through sod farm land - already showing a bright shade of green this early! It was exactly what I needed to wash away the gray of the city. Perhaps this is not similar to your experience after-all - I just know that I told my husband, I couldn't do it again...though we've lived in metropolitan areas before, I'd have to be hard pressed to do it again. He asked me if I noticed anything about the people rushing to get where-ever they were headed in Chicago. What? I shrugged. No one was smiling, was his answer. Back home, in our small town surrounded by rural countryside, we smile a lot.

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