This week, I've been milling over the question of whether or not shopping at the local Farmer's Market makes me a better person. Not better than you, of course -- because, dear reader, that could hardly be possible. But does it improve me somehow, enrich my soul, pave the way to a better seat in heaven? It occurred to me as I walked home from the market Wednesday morning, laden with blueberries, zucchini, raspberries and the season's first tiny blackberries. There was a swagger in my step, a bubbling pride, a distinct level of self-canonization taking place. Look at me, I seemed to be saying, I shopped at the Farmer's Market. I heart my local community. I heart produce. I am, therefore, divine.
Why do I never get this same puffed-up sensation when I buy a head of lettuce at Kroger? Is this a false sense of self-congratulation? Is it some sort of organic high? Whatever it may be, when combined with the righteousness I feel walking to and from the market (Earth! I love you enough not to drive!) it threatens to get out of proportion. It also makes me a person who sometimes pays more for her berries (not a euphemism) than she would at the grocery store. However, it means that -- unless the people in the Amish headgear are running a major scam -- I'm more comfortable with where my money's going. Instead of paying for the processing, packaging, marketing and positioning of said berries, I'm paying for the fruit and for the work that went into them. And if I want to get all John Mellencamp about it, I'm also supporting farming as a way of life in a time when working the land is anything but lucrative and easily sustainable.
I read recently, too, that fresh produce uses about 10 times less environment-hatin' energy to produce than processed foods, including frozen versions of fruits and veggies. That goes for grocery-store fresh produce too, so I can shop for the waxy, uniform-sized perfection of the grocery store produce too and still heart the environemnt.
Then there's the taste. I don't know if it's because some of the produce is homegrown, organic and, frankly, downright ugly. But the flavors in the tomatoes and berries I lug home from the market are downright sublime, completely incomparable to anything I buy at the store.
Shopping at the market also gives me an awareness of seasonal eating. There was lettuce this week, for example. The cherries have disappeared, the peaches are abundant, raspberries are especially sweet and the blackberries are tiny and bit overeager. It makes me think about when produce is meant to be eaten, when it presents itself, which is something we don't have to think about often in our year-round grocery stores which offer up hard strawberries even in the middle of winter.
Thus, I've come to a conclusion. I have decided that the answer to my initial query is unequivocably yes. Yes, shopping at the local Farmer's Market does indeed make me a better person. In fact, it probably makes me a better person than you. There. I've said it. I'm sorry. But that's just how it is.