Why support your local farmers market: One very personal opinion.

Everyone has a slightly different reason for shopping at the farmers market. As an organization,  Friends has reached out to market-going Evanstonians to get different perspectives on their support of and loyalty to the Downtown Evanston Market.

Love of the atmosphere, devotion to specific vendors–there are so many reasons to take time on Saturdays to shop at the market. We’d like to share a long note we received from a 20+ year veteran. Her name is Marlo Boyle, She’s pretty passionate about the subject, and we’re presenting her thoughts with only light, cosmetic editing.

Why support your local farmer’s market, you ask? I will tell you.

by Marlo Boyle

I have been living in Evanston now for almost 22 years and I relish this community. Everything I could need is here and within walking distance.  Yes, I am aware; almost everything I need is here. Let’s not split hairs over this detail. I have been working for one of the largest environmental beauty lifestyle companies in the world for the last 26 years. Over these years I, myself, have grown to be a passionate environmentalist and do my best daily to uphold the principles we guide our company by. Mainly to sustain the planet and to give back what we take from it.

One of the things most important to the sustainability of our company is farmers. They grow the ingredients we source to make our products and they do so organically or wild harvested, ethically and sustainably. We work directly with the farmers and remove the middle man to provide better economic opportunities as well as give us chance to nurture and grow our relationship with their community. We provide education, financial support in times of crisis if necessary and further opportunities for them to build the things needed to maintain the health of their community.

Why do I share this? Because farmers make the world go ‘round. Farmers grow & provide what we need to survive as a planet. Farmers are connected to the Earth which I can tell you many folks are not. Farmers have been taking care of us since the beginning of time and it is our responsibility to support them.  Without them, where are you going to get your favorite popcorn drown in “butter” at the movies? What about your squeeze tube of fruit concentrate for your little one to help soothe their appetite? How about that uber healthy Greek yogurt? Though it may come in a package of some sort, its contents originated on a farm.

Now, let’s bring this closer to home for you. I lead a busy lifestyle. I work well over 40hrs a week and always have.  I travel for my job weekly. I have things to take care of when I am not working. And though I may not have children, I do have people I take care of. Saturday morning is one of my days off and I have a lot to accomplish on that day, some of which starts at 9am and goes till lunch without a break.  And that’s not even including what I need to get done before 9am. I too stop at Whole Foods (where I prefer to shop) for items I might need for meals on my way home from work. Saves a little time then on my days off.

Marlo, get to the point!  Well you ask, when do you have time to go to the farmer’s market then if you are busy all morning on Saturday’s when the market takes place? I make time. Period. End of story.

My health & wellbeing is of the utmost importance to me due to some diseases I have, not to mention the fact that I have to live to be 98 years old so I have to make sure this body, mind and soul are well oiled and running efficiently every day of my life. That means I CARE about what’s going into my body, this temple. That means that I only want and allow fresh items straight from these farmers because they are growing what my body needs and what Mother Nature is providing to us in this region. I will elaborate on the latter shortly.

Growing food and livestock for us is what these farmers have chosen as their livelihood. They have chosen to provide our nutrition, our meals, our health. How admirable is that? If you think otherwise, then you might not want to continue reading. Their lifestyle is harder than any of ours combined. Their hours of work are ridiculous and they are at the mercy of Mother Nature and whether, or not, she wants to provide what they need to keep their livelihood moving forward. Try putting yourself in their shoes for just a moment and feel what it must be like to be someone who has chosen this way of life. I am quite certain many of you wouldn’t last a day. Yes, I hear you scoffing at me while you read this.  It’s ok. I can take it.

These farmers choose to come to our open markets for roughly 28 weekends. Some coming from 3-4 hours away driving in the middle of the night, rain, sleet or snow, just so we can have the freshest produce, most beautiful flowers, fresh baked breads, and leanest meats and dairy around. Seriously – when was the last time you drove 3-4hrs for your eggs, your apples, your flowers, your peaches, your cheese or mushrooms in a massive downpour of rain or lake effect snow? I am thinking never or at least not in the last year. I know I haven’t.

They bring to us the best of the best. And what’s really important to get, is that they grow what Mother Nature wants for us in THIS region, for each season that is going to support our body energetically, structurally and nutritionally. You cannot beat that. These farmers know what’s best for you and they bring it to your doorstep practically. Environmentally this IS the only way to go from my perspective. Disagree all you like.  Climate changes affects everyone and shipping in food from the east or west coast, or from South America, New Zealand or elsewhere because we just don’t want to make time to go to the local market doesn’t make sense.

Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Jewel or wherever else you shop cannot match what comes to the market each week. I have spoken at length to every one of the farmers that I buy from and have questioned them in and out about the quality, the freshness, their growing methods, their belief systems for farming. Every single one of them has told me that what you buy in the store is not even ripe when they sell it to these big chains. Every single one of them has told me that I will always receive a better deal at the market than in the store. Every single one of them is beyond grateful that I show up every single week to support their livelihood. Every single one of them relies on my business to keep them moving forward and, as a result, they put more LOVE into everything they do so that I keep coming back.

I make time. Period.

Every Saturday morning I wake up at 4:30am during outdoor market season. I do my cardio walk outside, eat and am at the Evanston Market on my bike (with side bags) by 7am to meet my farmers with a smile and deep gratitude.  It is one of the most exciting things I do all week and I mean that most sincerely. To see all of this beauty in front of me, aisle after aisle, is such a blessing that so many people don’t have.  I go in with a list of what I need and I am done by 8am. I ride home, quickly sort and wash my items or finish up after lunch when I return. Change my clothes and head to my 9am commitment. Period. I make time.

During the outdoor season, I have no reason to get any produce, meat or dairy from Whole Foods. The farmers provide everything I need. During the Winter season, I need to make a few exceptions. Which brings me quickly to eating what’s in season, for this region. This is a much longer conversation so I’ll keep it brief.

We live in the Midwest not Thailand or South America. That means that kiwis, pineapples, bananas, etc. don’t and were not meant to be grown here in this region. Spring, the time the earth is waking up, shedding its winter heaviness, this is the time to eat light, detoxifying greens/vegetables (asparagus, spinach, onions), pears/berries, bitter grains, etc. Summer, when the Earth is at its hottest, transforming all life, we eat cooling, light sweet, water filled foods. Melons/peaches/plums, light greens/vegetables/summer squashes, light grains, light meat. Fall begins the season of energy spiraling down and preparing for hibernation/storage of energy. We hold on the heat of Summer as the moisture leaves us. We eat grounding fruits (apples, grapes, figs), vegetables growing downward (carrots, turnips, beets, potatoes), dark heavy greens (kale, chards. Brussel sprouts) and meats. Winter is the season of hibernation and slowing down which none of us do anymore. We are to be conserving energy of ourselves and storing it. We eat warming stews, fruits, vegetables & grains to generate heat within us to maintain ourselves. Canned harvests from the crops become a staple (and yes I am fully aware that many of us have no time to can food nor the space to store it – at least I don’t).  I buy bags of apples & vegetables to keep in a cold area of our house and use through the winter. I continue to visit the Winter market for the hard squashes and vegetables that hold us over until the Spring comes. There is plenty that the Winter market provides and at that point you can supplement what you need from the other stores to get by until Spring which isn’t that long.

So you see, Mother Nature provides to the Farmers and they provide for us.  I make time and it is some of the most rewarding time I spend each week of the year. I hope you can come to experience the same. Be well.