Saturday, May 9, 2009

To Market, To Market

It seems like farmers markets are springing up all around our metropolitan area, which is great news because for a very long time there were only a handful. Today I shopped at a farmers market on its very first day of business.

The granddaddy of farmers markets in the area is Soulard Market, the oldest one west of the Mississippi. Long ago I shopped there on a regular basis, but when we moved to our present neighborhood it became too time- and gas-ineffective to go there except for special occasions. The Kirkwood Farmers Market has been around for more than 30 years, and has turned into our semi-regular provider of produce during the growing season. At approximately eight miles from our house, it was also the closest.

This year there are two close-by cities that have started markets. The one we visited today in the City of Wildwood (about a nine mile drive from the house) was probably a farm itself not too long ago. When we moved to Manchester 24 years ago, there was little development west of Clarkson Road. Since that time suburban sprawl slowly crept outward, and there's now the normal compliment of big-box stores and strip malls in the area.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the Wildwood Town Center, which they seem to be trying to develop along the principles of new urbanism. In addition to a chain grocery store, chain drug store, and all the other storefronts you'd expect in a strip mall there were multi-story buildings with street-level stores and restaurants. The streets in the area were arranged in a grid pattern, with roundabouts instead of stop signs at the major intersections, stone monument street signs, and on-street parking.

We weren't exactly sure where the market was being held; they needed more directional signage, but after a couple of wrong turns we saw the blue-roofed tents. After we parked the car in a convenient spot, I grabbed a couple of bags from the back of the car and we were ready to shop.

There were only about two dozen vendors there today. I had low expectations for the availability of produce, and I was right. It's really much too early for local fruits and vegetables. There were several local vendors of "stuff" and several booths selling prepared food, snacks, and baked goods. There was a grass-fed beef farm that was taking orders to be delivered later, and a man selling honey that came from not too far from where I live. I bought a pot of oregano from a local farm, we had lunch, then we left.

The market will be open on Saturdays throughout the summer and fall. I'm sure that once the growing season gets into gear there will be a lot more choices. I'd like the market to do well so there are more choices for good produce.

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