You know the scene: women in yoga pants cruise between tables of heirloom tomatoes, and couples walking their miniature dogs load canvas bags with local produce while a street musician hammers away on steel drums. You can find scenes like this easily these days as people latch on to the benefits of eating fresh foods grown sustainably. This urban, upper-crusty Saturday morning pastime isn’t the only kind of farmers market thriving these days, though.
As the economy continues to sputter along, people in rural America are tending gardens, preserving what they can’t eat right away and sharing or selling the rest. Unlike with urban farmers markets where prices are often higher than in grocery stores, rural shoppers are looking for bargains.
The New York Times reported recently on this trend, noting that garden stores are reporting more business and many community gardens have waiting lists for plots. Gardeners with surplus unload the extras for a good price, and buyers freeze, can, dry and pickle to make their produce last.
I saw an example of this recently in Hughes, Ark., where a city-sponsored community garden brimmed with tidy rows of corn, perfectly-staked tomatoes and sweet peppers that looked like Christmas ornaments. Volunteers worked together on the garden and shared the harvest with all takers. City leaders dream of expanding the community garden enough to produce excess that can be sold.
This story is a good reminder that even though locavorism is trendy these days and bank-breaking fruit and vegetables are easy to come by, old-fashioned gardening doesn’t have to be pricey and can, in fact, be quite practical. Of course, Heifer project participants in the United States and around the world know this already.