Farmers markets are ideal gathering places within a community, a custom which goes back to the beginning of humanity. It is a niche where like-minded enthusiasts can gather and accomplish a variety of community goals centered around fresh food, gardening and farming. Farmers markets are becoming more and more popular across the country, especially with sustainable and organic foods (see links). At the Hillcrest Farmers Market, one of the largest in San Diego, many of the patrons are very active in their community and are at the market to connect with the farmers.
Although the idea of going to local farm markets is an ongoing tradition dated to our ancient origins, this part of the modern food revolution is notable because our society has strayed so far from a local-based economy. The local concept goes well beyond the economic model by getting people to the farms, teaching them how to grow food, how to eat it and, in the process, getting their hands into the soil. The result is a healthy respect for the land, the food and how it affects our physical, mental and spiritual health, thus helping people understand a natural definition of quality. When a “local” mindset is incorporated into a daily lifestyle, we connect with the planet, food and people in a way rarely experienced in modern urban society. Like a human version of being “a fish out of water,” we are not in our natural element until we shop, eat and live locally.
With globalization, many of the products and foods which were formerly regional specialties are now in our backyard or at least in a market down the street. Learning about the cultures and traditions connected to these foods allows us to experience them in a similar manner as the original. This is not only aesthetically important, but intertwined on every level with our health. At the Hillcrest Market, there are a number of opportunities to interact with farmers and their land in order to learn and connect. Here are three options in no particular order:
Sage Mountain Farm offers the Inland Empire CSA where one can invest in the land, usually through a weekly fee, and get a share of the organic produce from it. CSA’s are becoming popular across the country and in San Diego, offer a real year round alternative to regular grocery shopping while dealing directly with a farmer.
La Milpa Organica is a 5 acre organic farm near Escondido. Owner Barry Logan is one of the agricultural sages of the Hillcrest Market and he offers student internships to help people learn about organic farming. He also has a CSA and hosts a potluck/open house every third Saturday of the month.
San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project holds classes is a variety of sustainable practices such as grey water systems and building adobe brick ovens. Their main mission is to help people understand and get involved in sustainable food production. Their mission statement says: “San Diego Roots was formed to strengthen the local food movement in the San Diego region and to create a sustainable urban-rural partnership that brings healthy local food to our communities and sustains the working landscapes and people that feed us.”
So, the next time you are at a Farmers Market, don’t just look at the fruits, vegetables and food products—look to the farmers. By working with them and learning what they have to teach, the degree of separation between you and the land is minimized. The food you prepare and consume will have added meaning, leading to better health and overall well-being.