I love the farmer's market. As a child I remember the summer market held at the Pavilion at Seba Beach, where my family has a cabin. The cavernous hall seemed to go on forever, the crush of people forced me along in a current of feverish and frantic cries for carrots, onions, and pyrogies. Every saturday my mother would give me a small bill to get something for myself while she rushed around beating all the other eager city-dwellers to the finest of all the fresh local fare. As I grew up I became a more integral part of the saturday market ritual - splitting up with my mother and aunt as we raced to different corners of the now-smaller Pavilion, racing against the yoga moms and old ladies for the last head of leaf lettuce or bag of baby russet potatoes. One of my favourite things from the farmer's market was always the beef jerkey, to be sure a deep-seated Albertan attribute. While my aunt rushed for the home made mennonite cinnamon twists, my mom and I preferred our own baking, saving our money for the things we could not make ourselves, namely BC fruit and local vegetables.
Now, as an adult, I have had a chance to grow my own vegetables in a backyard garden. I laughed when I saw my boyfriend's ridiculous rabbit-proof fence, arguing that such small creatures could hardly be expected to do as much damage as a fortification such as this necessitated. I was sadly mistaken. Every seed, every shoot, every fruit set that was not guarded by some form of fence fell victim to the rodent freedom fighters that attempted to root us out of their territory. I was astounded by just how much work goes into tending and protecting a little urban vegetable garden. But I was so proud, and even more so astounded by the miracle of nature. Watching these little leaves and shoots materialize from seed, earth, sun, and water seemed to me, and still does, an experience that no one should miss out on.
Self-sufficiency is a terribly misunderstood commodity. When it came down to it, before I kept that little garden, I could call myself self-sufficient if I was able to work to afford fresh local vegetables. Until I had actually done the work to grow my food myself, I was in denial about the extent to which I could provide for myself if called to do so.
Once again my mother and I returned to the farmer's market. This time, though, I went with her to the Strathcona Farmer's Market, located year round in the building just off Whyte Ave. The once-gigantic Pavilion at Seba Beach now seems small by comparison, with many of the vendors now opting to sell their stuffs in the city instead. At this big city market, everything from the standards:BC fruit, local vegetable farmers, and craftspeople can be found. What I love about this market is the multiple organic meat and produce vendors now popping up. As far as prepared food goes, they have come a long way from the cinnamon twisties of my childhood. Homemade pita and gourmet dips, fancy stuffed olives, and ethnic foods of all kinds send up delcious aromas that mix with the smells of fresh dirt, green beans, and fried onions.
I don't really know what to conclude from this other than commiting myself to return to these markets as often as I can, throughout my life, and to welcome new people to the wonderful world of locally farmed food. I suppose my life-long love of markets got its start right here, as I tucked into a dinner of Alberta lamb, Taber corn, and home made BC blueberry pie.