Fifteen or more years ago and several cameras ago, I took a panoramic photo of the Casey Farm, in North Kingstown, RI. I put it over my desk. Knowing that Linda & I had a “country place”, one of my co-workers asked if that was our farm. Knowing that she was
gullible, I replied, “Oh, no. That’s where Linda grew up.” Now, technically, I could have argued that she lived “near” there, as her mother walks past it daily on her 4 mile trek to the post office. But, the practical joker in me probably left her with the impression that Linda grew up in an 18th century farmhouse build with fieldstone and wood (and site of the repelling of the British forces during a Revolutionary War battle). If that former co-worker hunted out the place now, she might believe that Linda’s family farms and runs a farmer’s market.
The Casey Farm rests upon a ridge that makes up the western shore of the Narragansette Bay. Looking over the stone walls and Route 1A you can see the bay, the Village of Jamestown on Conanicut Island, and the Newport Bridge that takes you to Aquidneck Island where F. Scott Fitsgerald placed many of his “Great Gatsbee” elite. While the drive of the bridges from Newport to North Kingstown is greatly shorted from one hundred years ago, the cultural differences even today are evident.
When I took that panoramic photo, I believe that the property was maintained as a historic farm, but not open to the public. Over the years, we have noticed that community gardens began to develop, then educational programs in line with introducing visitors and school groups to Rhode Island’s rural past, and more recently a farmer’s market on Saturday’s. History and the slow-food and shop-local movements have brought a new history to the stone walls and foundations. A little late summer rain does not deter the visitor from chatting and filling their canvas shopping bags.
Farmer’s markets are as much about fresh, good quality food as interaction. Whether the merchant harvested goods from the garden or made those ingredients into cheeses, breads, sausage, or ice cream, knowing that the products changed hands only a couple of times from the ground to you table is satisfying… not to mention the flavor. Farmer’s markets also provide an outlet for craft-fair items too: home studio made clothing, jewelry, and pottery. On a drizzly day, locally ground coffee and a pastry are worth taking over to the tent to listen to a pick-up string band.
Farmer’s markets may not be practical if your are budgeting 45 minutes to stock up on provisions, paper goods, and health products each week. But, maybe if more folks budgeted 45 minutes per week to a farmer’s market, we could re-invigorate a sense of community into our culture.