Aphids are the bane of my existence right now. I hate them. I dream about them. I take great pleasure in spraying them with a mixture of Listerine, dish soap and water…the organic gardener’s magic solution for aphids. They attacked my corn, they attacked my okra, they attacked my strawberries, they attacked even my zucchini while I was gone.
As I harvested all of my corn this week, I wore gloves and watched in fascinated horror as clumps of aphids and their farmer ants fell to the ground at my feet while I cut stalks and shucked husks into a wheel barrow. I was really surprised at the wrath I felt towards these pests, and how personally affronted I was every time I threw an infested branch or cob into the waste pile.
It got me thinking about what it must be like to really be a farmer. While I am growing this food for my family and, from a budgetary standpoint, we have begun to rely on our garden as a resource, we always have the grocery store and farmer’s market in our back pocket should things not go well. Would we have to cut someplace in our budget to compensate? Sure. But would it we devastation for our family or the end of our livelihood if a crop failed? Of course not.
But for thousands of families who farm for a living all over our country and all over the world, that is not the case. And for organic farmers and small-time family farmers, I think the burden and the tenuous balance on the edge of financial and lifestyle viability bust be very extreme. This has been highlighted for me this week as I’ve dealt with the pests, diseases and weeds in my own garden that have taken hold during my absence for a week.
And yet, small family farms and local farmer’s markets carry some of the best-tasting, beautiful produce you have ever seen — and here in California during the summer, produce is so bountiful at Farmer’s Markets that it almost seems like some of the booths are giving their things away in a joyous celebration of the plenty that our climate provides for.
I know that Farmers Markets are not as convenient as the local grocery store. I know that sometimes getting past the less-than-picture-perfect bend of a local cucumber or pitted heirloom tomato bottom can be hard when we’ve been trained to think that waxy-shined, straight-grown produce equals great taste at the grocery store. But I urge you to pick a day in the week to come, find out when and where you can get to a local farmer’s market, and support our local farmers and organic growers. Let your other senses take over, let your nose and your taste buds inform you as you choose out some of summer’s bounty at the different stalls. Enjoy the fact that your jalapenos and tomatoes from local sources are not a part of a scary national recall and that the man or woman who is helping you pick your fruits and vegetables is likely the person who grew them — not a 5th party vendor down the line from some mass-production farm with little personal investment in what they produce and sell. Do like my friend Jen and see what $20 can get you.
I doubt that you’ll be sorry, and I suspect you’ll decide to do it again.
As a bonus for those of you with kidlets? I’ve yet to visit a FM and not have my son plied with free samples of sweet fresh fruits, lots of smiles, and a chance to see from close up the source of the food on the table every night. He loves a trip to the local Farmer’s Market and I’m sure your kiddo will, too.
The San Diego County Farm Bureau offers a free online calendar for all the licensed farmers markets throughout the county if you don’t know which is closest to you and works with your schedule. Be there, or be square.