~a column about Jefferson by Colleen O’Brien

In an informal survey of Greene County Farmers Market patrons as to why they come uptown to the market on Tuesdays, I discovered that the attractions and charms break down like this: about three-quarters of the folks come for the produce, about an eighth for the supper and about an eighth for the people.

One came because she was visiting in town with family and it was “the thing to do,” one came to get popcorn, and – my personal favorite – one came “because my wife made me.”

Many of these are crossovers — folks coming for all the reasons above (well, maybe not so many being dragged there by a spouse . . . but who knows what goes on in a marriage).

So, the farmers market is a cross between a grocery store, a restaurant, a meeting place, something to do and a tourist attraction.

Not bad for a once-a-week, summer-only lure in a little town .

The comments are very fun:

  • One fellow said, “Oh, I just wandered in. Didn’t know what all the fuss was about.”
  • One woman said, “Why not? I don’t have to cook and I don’t have to grow things.”
  • Another said, “Each week I bring my 94-year-old mom.” And the mom said, “I hate to miss it.”
  • One gal comes from Waukee each week to pick up a CSA (Community Service Agriculture) box of newly picked surprises from one of the produce vendors.
  • Many said they like to “support local,” “support the town,” “good local food.”
  • “I came all the way from Texas just for this farmers market.”
  • “I love Moo Meat!”
  • “Because I have coupons, and the produce is better than at the stores.”
  • “Just to have something to do.”
  • “It is our special time together, my son and I.”
  • “It’s hard not to stop when you think about that taste of sweet corn and tomatoes in your mouth.”
  • “Oh, it was a nice evening, and since we’d never been here before we decided to walk up.”
  • “You can get things you can’t normally get at a store, like homemade detergent – easy on the environment.”
  • “I need more cukes ‘cuz I’m going to make refrigerator pickles.”
  • And truly, next to the spousal demand, I really like: “Because it’s here.”

My theory of a farmers market basic attraction is the part about meeting people – it’s what we humans are about. We like each other, we like to be around each other, we seek each other out to do things with and on a pretty summer day, who wants to watch TV?

The urge to congregate is within us. Kind of like ants, we scurry around together if we can. Most animals pal around with their kind — elephants and gorillas, chimpanzees, prairie dogs – they just want to be with each other. Like us. Even though plenty of us say, “Oh, people drive me nuts!” we’re helplessly drawn to one another.

Our churches gather us together — much of a church’s point is to convene, to in fact gather together. If you’re not churched, a farmers market is a great place to convene, to gather together, to partake together as a communion of souls rather than sitting home alone with a book or on a TV tray in front of the tube.

At Jefferson’s market, friends, complete strangers and very casual acquaintances sit together at the picnic tables on the courthouse plaza to eat their inexpensive lamb burgers and cookies. It makes for a good evening, a few in town coming together, chatting about this and that, a human exchange before we all go our separate and sometimes lonely ways.

My theory of its charm? It’s well-run, the produce is beautiful as well as tasty, the smells from the cookers are mouth-watering, the breads are dense and good for you, the pastries are light and airy, both vendors and patrons have smiles on their faces, it’s orderly, sometimes there’s music and sometimes there’s really good music. It’s all a delight.


See you at Farmers Market.

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