Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Farmers' Markets are a Way of Life: From Turkey to Washington, DC

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer years ago, I shopped at my town's local farmers' market. I lived in Eastern Turkey, far from Istanbul. Women wore colorful baggy pants called shalvars, squatting on the ground where they spread out their produce to sell. Men wore black shalvars and ragged sports jackets. They sold products like hot peppers from burlap bags, feta cheese from five gallon tins, dried eggplants and oranges in season.
In 2001 I returned to Turkey. While visiting a former student in Istanbul, I visited their local Monday  market.

Everything was available - from shoes and melons, grilled meat and grapes, clothes and kitchen wares. The market traveled going from one local area to another throughout the week.
Ten years later in 2011, the Peace Corps celebrated its 50th anniversary in Washington, DC. When I was there for the festivities, I saw an empty parking lot on the corner of Independence and 12th Street. On that rainy Friday, there was a Farmers' Market run by the US Department of Agriculture.
It was not nearly as colorful or big as that market in my town in Eastern Turkey or in Istanbul. However, the farmers were selling produce they grow or products they make like honey, cider or apples, pickles, pastries, or beef. The farmers come from nearby farms in Maryland or Virginia. The market is open on Fridays from June to October. Its operating instructions are available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3002978

Next to the market is the People's Garden, a USDA project, showing the relationship between what is grown and what is eaten. Even in late September, several raised beds were filled with herbs or lettuce. Others had been harvested and looked as if they were prepared for winter.                                                         
The purpose of the People's Garden is

  • to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for those in need or native trees, shrubs and flowers for wildlife.
  • to demonstrate sustainable practices that nurture, maintain, and protect the health of our soil, water and air. To provide a beautiful place in our neighborhood to gather, learn, share and enjoy.
To find out more about the People's Garden and its initiatives, log onto:  http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=PEOPLES_GARDEN

Today farmers markets, big or small, are an important part of many people's lives.

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