The Huber’s and Blooming Farms Farmstands hold a dear place in my memories of childhood. Hearing the sound of a gravel parking lot announcing a summer stop for corn on the cob, or a cold skylight snowball. The green paper containers, their colorful contents, stark against the white-painted plywood counter. The corrugated plastic roof and hanging flower baskets. I remember eating a whole pint of plums in the car riding home once, and feeling sick to my stomach. Something I’ve repeated as a fully-aware adult.
I remember glancing through the curtain at Blooming Farms to see a diner-style table, set with a wooden napkin holder and a few mugs. There was a coffee maker and some sugar packets, and an Entenmann’s box nearby. This wasn’t a grocery store; I remember feeling like there was a home here.
Grocery stores occupy the bulk of my food exposure as a child, and Blooming Farms is no more. Those market memories form a framework for my feelings toward this urban food life and the things we consume.
Our Farmers Market
As a young adult, dining out was way easier than a sink full of dishes. The farmers market was a special stop. Savored on a weekend morning, with plans of drinks during an afternoon in the kitchen. Now, as the family cook et al., the market serves the genuine purpose of providing meals for my family. And distraction-free time on Saturday morning for my wife.
Most Saturday mornings, you’ll find me and my son Calvin at the Fitler Square Farmers Market. It’s in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood of Philadelphia, easily-walkable from my house. The market operates year round and in all weather. There are three regular vendors: Brogue Hydroponics, Highland Orchards and Philly Fair Trade Roasters. From these, I can gather the majority of our weekly vegetables and fruit, herbs, eggs, bread, meat, and coffee.
Since before he started solids, my son was spending Saturday mornings with me at the market. Rain, shine, winter or summer, we head out after breakfast. Sometimes we hit the playground, sometimes we get donuts, and sometimes we’re in a rush. But you’ll always find us at Fitler Square sometime before noon, bags in hand.
A Special Space In Our Week
Our Saturday morning market trips are an experience I cherish in real-time. When life gets busy, it’s a strong point of balance in my week. Time slows down enough to let the wonder of a morning with my son sink in, and how amazing this season of life is.
The small community of vendors and shoppers we see in all seasons fills me with gratitude. In the heart of winter where there’s snow on the ground and empty roads, the vendors show up the same. The dismal days are the important ones. I make a point to go because like I depend on the food we get, those farms depend on regulars like me. It’s more than food; it’s the community I’ve chosen. Experiencing that with my son is a joy regardless of the weather.
A Story of Kindness
The market is a place of connections. Connections to our neighborhood and especially our neighbors and vendors. Creating these relationships around food is a powerful positive reinforcement for food.
There was a week when Calvin had taken to carrying around a rubber purple mermaid party favor. He’s spent Saturday morning showing it off. We were halfway home before realizing that in the hustle, he’d lost track of it. He wasn’t upset, but insistent we find it. We couldn’t, even after retracing our route back and through the market. I explained that it was gone, which he took in stride.
Not once that following week was it mentioned. The moment we arrived the following Saturday he announced that he would look for his Mermaid.
Unbeknownst to me, a regular vendor Dorothy had found the toy when cleaning up the week before. She cleaned it and kept it safe all week. When she handed it to Calvin that morning, he was speechless! Grinning and SO happy. The other vendors were waiting to see him react; everyone had looked for that mermaid the week prior.
That type of kindness is part of why we love going to the farmers market. The people who show Calvin these types of thoughtful kindnesses reflect my hopes for how he treats others.
Creating Familiarity & Food Comfort
The market is critical to our week. Supplemented by Instacart, it’s how I get food into the house. Considering the love of food, the market is a wonderful environment for my son. There is only the joy of discovery and curiosity, without the pressure to eat anything.
Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are things to explore and comment, question and consider. It’s a safe space for a toddler to see what lettuce looks like, to hold it, and to choose to buy it.
Ignore that days later, when presenting that lettuce with a delicious white pear balsamic, that same toddler won’t touch it. That’s not important.
Exposure is important, and the farmers market allows me to share the joy of discovery with my son. My weekly shopping starts at the farmers market. Plans for the week’s meals coalesce around the whatever produce or meat I’ve brought home. I love to let my son take the lead asking questions and talking about all the fruits and vegetables he sees.
I’ve seen him eat every floret from a broccoli stem while browsing, but shun the same broccoli days later at dinner. He delighted in finding whole trout there for a few weeks, and ate his fill of filet those nights. He’s loved discovering the watercress from a book in real life, trying several leaves before refusing it forever since.
When he shows an interest in something, he gets to handle it, try it, help during prep, try it again before cooking, and cold the next day with leftovers. I remind him it’s something he picked at every opportunity. That thing is his; if he doesn’t eat the final product, that’s okay. He’s owned that piece of produce from the market to table, and that exposure is a powerful incentive to try the right bite, at the right time.