Friday, June 10, 2011

Farmers Markets – Part II

 Farmers Markets are not a recent development connected to the ‘organic foods’ and ‘buy local’ movements seen in recent decades. They have been around for a lot longer time than one might think. The first Farmers Markets began over 5,000 years ago along the fertile land of the Nile River in Egypt, where farmers brought their produce to be sold.

Colonists in the New World also gathered to buy, sell, and trade goods as the Egyptians did. Their weekly gathering allowed colonial families to live more comfortably, since they were far from supplies that arrived only after a long ocean voyage. These earlier markets were not staged under tents and awnings like today. Instead, many of them set up under the protection of large trees that allowed the dappled sunlight to dance across their goods and produce.

The Colonial Markets included more than food, since there were settlers who made a living by crafting shoes, hats, clothes, and tools. However, the protocol to purchase these items was much different than going to the mall today. Instead of simply finding an outfit, and wearing it to work the next day, the colonial buyer went to the Colonial Farmers Market, placed an order for the clothing, and then waited until it was made, usually picking it up from the seller several weeks later.

Participants in the early Farmers Markets often traded for items instead of exchanging money and goods. For example, if a toolmaker did not have enough in his garden to feed his family one year, he could trade a tool he had made with a farmer who needed the tool and had himself raised a productive garden.

Towns within the colony of New Netherland in the mid 1600s had a specific day each week set aside as Market Day. This made it easy for buyers and sellers to prepare for exchanges that would take place on the given Market Day. Farmers Markets were more than an avenue to purchase and sell supplies. These gatherings were a time to visit with friends and neighbors, get caught up with the goings-on of the previous week, a time for the settlers to refresh their souls, and renew their friendships. At the end of the day, after close of a Market Day, most of those who attended went home a bit happier, glad to be an important part of their community.