Thursday, 28 February 2013

It Takes A Community to Make A Market Flourish

In ancient times, when man first gathered together and settled in the verdant valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (in present day Turkey and Iraq), civilizations developed around food. The only reason to settle and cease to be nomadic was to plant, raise and harvest food crops. Roots were put down, both literally and figuratively, and civilization as we know it today, was born.

Since ancient times, communities have gathered around food.

It nourishes us and it gives us reasons and opportunities to gather together, to connect, to unite and to socialize. Our lives are nourished by it and made richer for it in so many ways.

Crunchy, fresh cukes from Riverbend Gardens
& wonderfully fragrant dill ready to make pickles

When I first started going to farmers' markets, the idealist in me was simply there to get the best quality fruits and vegetables that I could find to feed my family very well, both from an aesthetic and a nutritional perspective. I zipped in and out with tremendous efficiency: it was, at that point in my life, simply a place of commerce. However, I now have a little more life experience behind me, and what I've come to realize both in my travels around the world and through my work behind the scenes with the Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market board, is that farmers' markets can be so much more:

  • A farmers' market can be a community gathering place. 
  • It can be a place where people meet, enhance, enjoy and support each other, be they farmers, producers, artists, craftsmen, shoppers, volunteers, organizers, community league directors, market planners or generous market sponsors. 
  • It can be a place for people to connect, not only with the people who run and support the market, but a place to connect with family, neighbours and friends. And strong connections are the foundation of a vibrant, healthy community.
  • It can be a place to support the local economy. 
  • It can be a place to enjoy a meal or a delicious snack with family and friends.
  • It can be a place to meet new people and have fun.
  • It can be a place to witness great beauty and inspiring artistry.
  • It can be a place to experiment and try new things, such as a new type of food, an unusual vegetable, an intriguing spice mix, a neat combination of foods from a food truck.
  • It can be a place to learn something new... whether it be an artist's perspective or perception of beauty, a new recipe, something that is offered in your community such as an event or a service that you didn't know existed, or a new way to combine and prepare foods.
  • And it can be a place to form strong connections with friends and neighbours, vendors and family, old and new.

They say, "It takes a community to raise a child." And while I have most definitely witnessed and participated in that wise, old saying, I also know that it takes a community to do a lot of truly amazing things.
There's no doubt about it: it takes a community to make a market flourish and for it to be successful. 
And our market is no exception. I have been humbled and amazed by the people who work behind the scenes well before market day or even market season, in order to bring you our wonderful local, community market. There are so many people, from the organizers, community league representatives and volunteers through to the individual vendors... the artists, crafstmen, food producers, chefs, farmers and growers... all working very hard and very creatively to make our third market season a rip roaring success.

Make coming to your community market a habit this year. Your life, and the lives of the people you care about, will be richer for the experience.

Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market runs every Wednesday from May 15th to October 2nd, 4:30-7:30pm. I really hope to meet you there!

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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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