An editorial feature by Jon Guthrie
There’s just something special about a farmer’s market!
But exactly what is hard to say. There’re certainly the bins and barrels of fresh vegetables (Oh, those squash!) and the buckets of flowers; the trays of baked goods and fruit and candies. There’s also the camaraderie, the companionship, the amity … the community solidarity and comradeship brought on by all sorts of vendors and all sorts of customers who become united neighbors in this brief moment of commonality.
But there are those few who shun such community activities, give them little weight, set amity aside in favor of enmity. According to these opinions, such events lower merchants’ income, are held in the wrong places, absorb too many already-scarce resources, cause traffic jams, and are general pains-in-the-neck. These are the well-meaning factionists who-sometimes for sound reasons-fail to join the good spirits and revelry.
Instead of hanging loose, these splinter groups get … well, up tight and disparage the goings on.
Several in Pacific Grove are arguing against the just-got-started market that is holding sway on Lighthouse every Monday. Among the most vociferous anti-marketers are entrepreneur Tom Pollacci (liquor store) who, during a 2008 discussion spoke out against the Farmers Market at a city council meeting and since because of location- caused drains on his business. Pollacci felt that we should look around, find somewhere else to hold it.
Entrepreneur Jean Graham (former Hand Maden’s owner) agreed with the Pollacci. Graham said that she is against the closing of Lighthouse Avenue for any event, but she criticized the Farmers Market in specific. “Why not use Jewel Park?” Madden wondered.
Mr. Jordon Pollacci follows in the footsteps of his uncle, Tom, in speaking out against closing Lighthouse. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m for these market events,” he said. “I just want to see them somewhere else.” Jordon recommended Jewel Park as the ideal location for the Farmers Market.
Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What’s the real story here?
Farmers’ markets, often called greenmarkets, have been around communities in the United States for more than three centuries. They were at first attempts at organizing contacts between farmers and their customers. These marketing events traditionally were held on Saturdays.
During the revolutionary era, a farmer would load a dray, hitch up a horse, and wend his way townward-clippity-clop-to sell what could be sold … and to exchange considerable gossip during the process. As the years passed, drays and horses were traded in on trucks or vans. The market experience served the same purpose however: the ready exchange of agrarian goods replete with neighborly conversation.
About 1800, craftspeople began to catch on. The typical craftsperson had no way to market his hand-made products unless the customer came to the manufacturer. Why not join forces with the farmers’ market crowd and take goods to the consumers?
More recently, the market customers became vocal about what they wanted. Some cried for produce fresher than the vegetables that could be purchased from the grocery store. Farmers’ market produce seemed to fill the bill. After all, farmers’ markets are conveniently located. A grower simply picks the produce and-zip-takes it to be sold.
Others joined the burgeoning “better health” craze. Farmers’ market goods were generally grown naturally or organically. Customers could also question the vendor (generally also the grower) about freshness and growing processes (Grocery store clerks rarely have the knowledge required to answer such questions).
Farmers’ markets offer so many advantages ( and almost no disadvantages) that rapid increases in their growth has been tracked. More than 4,500 markets were officially on the books in 2006. Many more are thought to be unofficially operating. Markets are also on the increase around the world. In Asia, for instance, where markets are known as “wet” markets, virtually everyone participates.
Pacific Grove counts itself among the communities harboring “official” market places. This past week, a meat vendor was overheard explaining to a customer the differences in meat cutting and its processing. Another vendor offered free lectures on different types of garden flowers. The crowd of happy buyers milled among the crowd of happy sellers.
Still … there are those complaints.
Pacific Grove will just have to decide if it wants its own farmers’ market … and, if so, exactly where.
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