Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Farmer’s Market is Like “Church”

 At least once a week my heart fills with a sense of hope and wonder, opening to gratitude, humility and a sense of connectedness. I am not a member of any religion and I don’t go to church, but I do go to my local Farmer’s Market – religiously!

I live right downtown in my small city. It takes me 20 minutes by bicycle to get to the Market. My bike is fitted out with a big crate on the back and bags on the front to carry home my groceries.

We gather by the inlet, a body of water that leads to a beautiful lake. Across the water is a park with a waterfront trail, often peopled by bicyclists, skaters, runners, walkers and strollers. Sometimes there are rowers or sailors on the water and, usually, ducks.

Back when it was still cold in my northeastern community and the trees were still bare, my family purchased a share of the harvest that we hoped and expected would unfold in the coming months – an act of faith, when contemplating the frozen ground of March.

But unfold it does, providing more and more bounty as the summer grows and ripens into autumn. The colors, flavors and textures of the Market quiet my busy mind and bring me into the present.

Sometimes my eyes fill with tears, just for a moment, when I pick up my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share - if I let myself feel how amazing it is that this earth is so alive with food. “My” farmer is quiet, a bit gruff but friendly. Sometimes we talk about the weather (as it relates to the plants), bugs (as they relate to the plants) or disease (same). The catechism of agriculture! I know his name and think of him when I sit down to eat. Whenever I buy fruit or produce at another stand, I learn the names of the farmers and think of them, too. And I think of my friends and neighbors together on Saturday morning in that beautiful place. My stomach and my heart are filled at the same time.

There is something so deeply grounding about the Market for me, that it transcends the words “food shopping.” It feels more like…devotion. 

I wrote this a few years ago - before I started working at a farm in exchange for my CSA share. I followed the food to its origins and found the fields on a hill overlooking our beautiful city. Every Tuesday I take the bus out to the farm and  harvest, pull weeds, wash produce and set up the barn for the "pick-up." The farmers are dedicated and inspiring and the crew is fun and interesting. Other member/workers join us - the conversations feed us as much as the food does. Somehow this work makes us intimate and things are shared - deep thoughts, difficult feelings, visionary ideas and grand plans. With hands in the soil, the sun on my back and muscles aching with the toil I learn a deep respect for the people who work the land so that we can eat - a respect that is more than intellectual, it lives in my sore lower back and sunburned neck. And I learn that devotion is in all the places that feed us, body, mind and spirit.

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