October 7, 2009

California Farmers Markets - A New Export?

It is amazing how there are so many farmers markets in Northern California now. We seem to have them popping up in city neighborhoods, in empty parking lots and in larger more beautifully organized places like the San Francisco Ferry Building. They make great weekend destinations that's for sure.

Besides buying local foods, supporting local businesses, a great benefit of going to a farmers market is the people interaction. You will encounter street performers with an open guitar case play music for children.

The people running their own stalls seem so much more engaged than at a supermarket. Some try to entertain you while selling their wares. Some open markets will have food stands. There you can often meet start up restaurants that will try hook in new customers by giving away free samples.

Above is a photo taken at a stand selling Afghan foods. The saleswoman was incredibly polished and smooth with her style. She entertained us with her quips then hooked us quickly when she whipped out a sample that combined several spreads mixed together on a thin bread called Bolani - she called her snack "Afghan lasagna". It was really delicious!

Farmers markets also allow people to test out new and different produce like unusual variations of beans, squash and flowers. Walking through the stalls, I was amazed to see the various types of vegetables and fruits. Some I had never seen before.

There were Asian favorites like bok choy and lots and lots of tomatoes. I think this is a type of squash but I don't know. It was being sold at a couple of stalls.

California is unusual and I wondered how many farmers markets are currently in other states. Thanks to the internet, I found a great way to learn about local markets in the rest of the country. Local Harvest is a website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

I will definitely use this resource when I visit other parts of the county. Farmers Markets are certainly going to be a destination for my domestic travels from now on.

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