Every other Saturday, I indulge in a Bloomington tradition. It’s one that’s rarely mentioned in guidebooks, campus tours or town websites.
This tradition is the farmer’s market.
When I was younger, my parents and I would venture to the Germantown Farmer’s Market every weekend in the summer. Growing up in Memphis, we had access to plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits.
There was the stand that sold peaches so fragrant their scent would lure you to buying more thanyou needed. A pea shelling machine spat out green beads fresher than anything canned. And always, an old lady sat in a corner weaving baskets, unfazed by the commotion.
I remember my father knocking on watermelons to choose the freshest one and then lugging it around with him as my mother squeezed tomatoes. The vendors rarely changed, and their constant presence reassured the customers of their credibility. You trust Peach World will have the best peaches because every week, without fail, they are there.
My hometown farmer’s market mesmerized me. The bright colors of the fruits, the back-and-forth chatter and the cacophony of the machines contrasted with the stale, dimly lit Kroger in my neighborhood.
Going to a farmer’s market is not an errand; it’s an adventure. You can interact with the peoplewho grow the food you purchase. Eating is a very intimate thing, one that is reduced to cheap prostitution when you buy from a grocery story. But when you pick up a fruit and look into the eyes of the person who grew it, you can trust they’ll tell you if it’s ripe.
It was only last year that I started attending the Bloomington Community Farmer’s Market. Its stature hardly impresses, but the experience of attending compares.
Last week, I came home with an Italian herb mix, a bunch of lavender, a bouquet and a couple of peaches. I spent $11, a lot of money considering I could get a week’s worth of groceries for that cost at Aldi. But instead of walking into a store, running down my list and checking out as fast as I can, the farmer’s market allows me to linger.
I don’t have to pick up a flyer to check the latest deals. I can simply take a few walks around to see where I can find the best deal on zucchini. Or I can grab a cup of coffee from the local roasters and a muffin from Feast, my favorite Bloomington bakery.
The best part of buying produce at a farmer’s market is what you learn from the farmer’s. every time I buy something, whether it’s fresh flowers or green onions, I ask how to store it, how long it lasts and when to throw it away.
I don’t buy my produce at the farmer’s market because it’s always cheaper or because I’m a big supporter of locally-grown food. I like knowing more about what I’m eating. And as much as I like the customer service at Kroger, I can’t find that kind of information there. We as consumers should be more aware of what we eat.
If you’re free on Saturday, stop by the Showers Commons. The market is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., but get there early. There’s nothing like showing up and seeing you missed the first round of perfect peaches.