A great little gem in the middle of a bustling suburban town, this farmers’ market provides a wider variety of produce you could ever find compared to a grocery store. Stretching about two-to-three blocks long, the place will most likely not disappoint, as you will most likely find what you come to look for and more, blood oranges to the more uncommon items like purple carrots that stain your mouth and fingers purple. Stand owners and workers for the most part present themselves as extremely friendly and approachable. They more than welcome to explain their more uncommon produce. Extremely crowded at peak times during the day (typically every two hours), it becomes difficult at times to walk from vendor to vendor, having to part the sea of people. People who go to buy things from the vendors seem extremely friendly as well, chatting with other people as if the farmers’ market was a local gathering of the neighbors up –and-down the street. Often times these people will have brought their children to walk around and teach them different types of fruits and vegetables. The atmosphere at this farmers’ market provide a feeling of stepping into a whole different place altogether. People who sit behind stands playing the banjo, sometimes to grab the attention of people toward their eco-friendly program, while a single older gentleman with a microphone plays into pipes. There also, presents an interesting contrast with the busyness of the main road of El Camino Real and all its cars, and almost at times feels like stepping into a different part of the city altogether. Overall, an excellent location to shop for produce with a wide variety of selections, friendly and approachable vendor workers, a very soothing and welcoming atmosphere, and a good buzz of life among the number of adults and children that come to gather.
Nutella. For many who hear that word, they visualize that iconic large jar of brown-colored spread with the black “n” combined with the red letters “ella.” Does it taste good? You can bet on it. Is it good for you? That’s debatable (it most likely isn’t though, at least not as they claim it to be.) Nevertheless, it is something that never disappoints when it comes to taste and how satisfying it feels afterward when you slap it on a piece of bread and have it for breakfast. To me, nutella is much more than just a simple bread spread. It opened my eyes as to think about what life is like across the world’s big ponds.
I suppose you can call it the “peanut butter” of Europe, because of the fact that having been to Europe myself, it is as popular there as peanut butter is here. During my time in Europe, I stayed at a family’s house for about three days. Call it a “homestay,” to experience what it is like to live in a family from another country. I recall that every morning coming downstairs, they would ask “Do you want Nutella, or butter on your bread?” At this time I had no knowledge of what nutella was, and I was not in the mood of trying it. However every morning for the few days I was there they would always ask when I would come down the same question. I would then respond by saying , “Do you have anything like peanut butter?” They then would give me the strangest look like I had asked some sort of awkwardly-phrased question in German (they were a German family). They then asked, “What’s peanut butter? Is it like butter that we have here?” It was somewhat amusing to me for them to ask that question because everyone in America knew what it was, and it felt strange that I had to explain it, but then I recalled that is how I felt about nutella. I guess you could say that nutella is much more than just a spread. I guess you could say that nutella, behind its enticing sweet chocolate taste, explains a whole different way of life.
After a strong commitment from me that I would try to eat food that was only grown locally, I would learn quickly with a growing hunger that the commitment would not be as easy as I first perhaps thought. On Wednesday (2/6), I committed myself to the challenge of trying to figure out where the stuff I was eating came from, and if it originated from a place within about 100 miles of Palo Alto.
That morning right after I took a shower, I went over to the kitchen to make a small breakfast. I had checked my bread to see where it had been shipped from. Discovering it was from Illinois, I had to decline a piece of bread. Looking over at the bottle of peanut butter I was thinking of placing over my bread, Ohio. It did not take long for me to understand after going through product after product of anything I could eat for breakfast that none of my food had originated from really anywhere close to 100 miles. The closest was the bag of frozen tater tots which came from Idaho, wisely assuming that the potatoes were from Idaho. I decided to leave the house hungry, and cranky to my volunteer position at the hospital.
At lunch, I had went to the cafeteria to see what was being served that day. I decided on getting a long sub sandwich, but did not know if food was local (I had a very strong feeling it was not). I went to the person attending the stand and asked. She replied with a resounding,
“I don’t know, why don’t you ask the supervisor?”
At that moment, I went over to the supervisor, asking the same question. Again, I received a similar response.
“I don’t know, why do you even care anyway?”
I held back in telling her my true intent, but the allure of the smell of pizza and looking at the sandwiches being made overcame my will to continue with my “local for a day” crusade. It was at that moment that out of hunger and crankiness, went over to purchase the sandwich, at which the attendant said,
“Did you find your answer?”
“No. At least not the one I was hoping for anyway.”
It was then that I had broken the pledge, seemingly too difficult to maintain and faltering against the strength of my hunger. The rest of the day maintained a sense of heightened awareness to the idea that the food I was eating for dinner was most likely not grown locally. It also showed me to think, “Why is so much of the food in my own house, and to the places I go all the time from around other places in the country?” I also with some humor asked, “Imagine if Idaho was suddenly wiped off the map, that would devastate the potato crop and we would be all ‘potatoless.'”
It is definitely not something that can be taken lightly. Being a locavore requires constant commitment to knowing where your food comes from at all times, something obviously the people at the cafeteria were not accustomed to being asked. It takes a tremendous amount of energy just to investigate, and an entirely different level of commitment to maintain such a position. I can say with full honesty that I cannot live my life as it is now without the rest of the country making produce and food products for me.
Our group has planned to go to a farmers market on California Ave, Palo Alto, CA. I plan to go there with Amy, Sherry, and Jonny as a group of four. (Amy is my main partner), and will take place this Sunday from 9-1 P.M. We will be on the lookout for interesting and unusual foods to buy, as well as interviewing the various people tending to their stands about their experiences, thoughts, and opinions.
Have you ever perhaps passed by a farmers’ market one Sunday morning on your way to Safeway?
Perhaps you had looked at the label on some of the fruits and vegetables in the produce section and saw “Produce of Mexico,” “Produce of Brazil,” or even “Produce of the Philippines.” Looking at these labels, you perhaps start thinking,
“Why is more than half the produce in this store from another country? The United States has such a diverse range of climates (especially California), that almost any plant could be grown within it!”
Unless you have lived in the absence of all forms of media and connections to the rest of the country, you may have noticed a shift as of late in American (particularly Californian) attitudes towards a more “green, eco-friendly, ‘locavore’ movement.” There are several reasons for these various kinds of shifts, ranging from more scientific methods to combat global warming, to more economic reasons such as the “Made in America movement,” focusing on lessening the American demand for cheaper exports, and buying more local, domestic goods.
A particular movement, the locavore movement, involves using food that was grown locally as a replacement for all food grown elsewhere. In other words, a locavore is a person who, if produce was grown perhaps in 50, 100, or 150 mile radius from their homes, it would be their only source of produce.
According to HowStuffWorks, the locavore movement originated on World Environment day in San Francisco, CA, and was mainly popularized by the blogging duo James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith. (http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/locavore.htm)
The main argument of the movement is that someone should be able to rely solely on local resources to create a sustainable and renewable way of growing your own produce, and improve the quality of the local economy as well as being environmentally friendly.
Appealing to common sense, they would argue that there should be no reason to have to buy food that was grown hundreds of miles from your home, handled by people you do not ever see or ever know, and have the produce treated with chemicals whose names would take more than a few reiterations to fully say. In addition, the money going back from buying this imported produce goes back to the country that the produce was imported from.
You should be able to grow what you might need in the comfort of your own backyard, knowing what happens to it 24/7 without worrying about it being contaminated with E. Coli, and sell whatever else you might produce to other people in complete confidence.
So say, if you went to your local farmers’ market in February, or decided to sell produce in February, you might come across various vegetables such as: Cabbage, various winter greens, beets, leeks, winter squash, and other starchy root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
While you might not seem convinced over turning completely over your produce purchasing habits, it might not be a bad idea just to take a trip to your local farmers’ market just to see what they have. Who knows, maybe you’ll actually become a locavore without noticing!
The Youtube video “Window Farms” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fPZWJggyXY), provide an interesting spin on having a personal mini-farm from the comfort of one’s own window.
The argument presented in this video says that it is possible (with a little bit of space, clear strong view of sunlight, and a little bit of creativity) to create a so-called “farm” in the middle of a sprawling urban community. While limited in size, the strength of the farm is in its versatility, not requiring the necessary space that a typical “community garden” would have to take. On a more larger scale of production, if someone had a window farm that produced lots of products such as thyme, basil, etc., they could potentially sell them for a small profit with relatively little work.
I find it difficult being able to do this in my own room because my room does not face the sun directly (it is covered by other buildings in my condominium complex). I however think that this window farm could be achievable by placing the same system as presented in video on our french doors leading to our backyard (while we are in a condo complex, we live on the first floor, and thus blessed with the opportunity to have a backyard that receives plenty of sunlight). I would perhaps have to divide the setup into two systems of pumps, one on each door so that we would still have the opportunity to open the doors in the case of if we wanted to out in the backyard. In other words, there would be two distinct systems of the window farm, with one pump on each door providing the nutrients and water to each of their own respective systems.
Regarding what I would grow, I would consider growing simple things such as what are shown on the video. These plants include basil, thyme, oregano, and other such things. The reasons for this is that I am not a very accomplished or experienced gardener (the only plant I ever had the privilege of taking care of was a Venus flytrap, which promptly passed when I accidentally stepped on it as a child). I really have no sense of a gardener’s green thumb. The other reason is that my mother always sends me on “herb runs” to fetch such herbs from the local farmer’s market, or the ground-up version available at Safeway. As a very good cook who frequently uses such herbs, she would much appreciate the opportunity to use fresh herbs grown in our very home.