Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Farmer's Market and General Store Ramblings

My husband Mike and I ventured downtown again on Saturday, fulfilling what seems to have become a weekly duty. It was a bit chilly- well, chilly by Florida standards- but we still rode our bikes.

We went to The General Store on Kentucky Avenue, “Downtown’s newest old store” that “has everything from Band-Aids to Fix-A-Flat to Marlboros …to ice cold Grape Crush…” and so the promotion goes. We were there to get the reproduction bottles of Coke that came out for the holiday season.

Anyway, I digress. We wandered down to the weekly Farmer’s Curbside Market and finally- praise God- someone had Collard greens. Mike Morgan from Ruskin, a farmer who might be known for his beautiful, blood-red strawberries, called Morganberries, had the leafy green southern delights. They weren’t organic, but they were too beautiful for me to care.

I wanted the strawberries too, but I don’t have time to do anything with them right now, so I’m saving them for another weekend.

Then we headed around the corner to Jim The Breadman, who’s there faithfully every Saturday with breads and rolls. I picked out the big bag of cheese rolls- 10 for $1.50- and suddenly knew what I was making for supper. BBQ pork sandwiches on those soft, fresh rolls. Collard greens on the side. If there was any doubt that I’m southern…
Mike also picked up a HUGE bag of pecan sandies $3.50. We'll have to freeze half of them.

There was a new vendor there on this day, a lady who made cool leather stuff- hair ties, bracelets, purses, belts. Chelsea Geiger was there with her homemade candles and soaps. I bought a tiny simmer pot and a baggie of McIntosh and Granny Smith apple-scented wax buttons for $8.50.

Richard Bond was there with his canvas work. He wasn’t chiseling on a sculpture today. Bummer.
The Barefoot Gardeners, a group of earthy native plant lovers, was there.

The Plumlees, who grow hydroponic lettuces and sell lemon-infused and other olive oils were there.

Lakeland Plant Works, a faithful vendor since the Curbside market began three years ago, was there with his beautiful plants, many of which are Florida natives.

I found myself looking around and for the first time, really taking in this event. It happens every Saturday, and I hate how many people never take advantage of it. We spent less than $20 on Saturday. You can’t beat that!

The whole morning outing made me sappily nostalgic. I am willing that General Store to be successful, but I know in my heart it will take much more than that. People will have to get out of the Wal-Mart mentality and pay the extra 70 cents for the cough drops at The General Store than they would elsewhere.

My whole argument reminds me of the Jimmy Buffet song, “Fruitcakes,” where he screams about not wanting a 12-pound Nestle Crunch for $25 at the movie theater.

Sometimes it’s not about price. It’s not about getting the large economy size because it’s the best value. Sometimes it ought to be about patronizing a locally-owned business just because you want it to succeed. And today I learned that you don't always have to pay more to patronize local businesses. I got great deals today.
I feel like if those small businesses are successful, those of us who shop there can take pride in having helped make that happen.

The same goes for the Farmer’s Market. Now how Mike Morgan can drive over from Ruskin on a Saturday, sell beautiful Collard greens for $3 a bunch and have it be worth his while is beyond me, but it must be working for him. It’s not for us to question, it should be for us to support him.
It just makes me feel better, knowing I’ve purchased my Collard greens from a guy who cut them the day before; not from a store that had them shipped from California or Ecuador or wherever the hell they get super-cheap produce from this week.

We live in Polk County, people. We’re still rural. We are the heart of citrus; we live next door to the strawberry capital of the world; down the road from the Zellwood corn mecca; a short drive from the tomato capital; a hop, skip and a jump from the land of peanuts. We have ample opportunities to buy our produce locally.

I hope you all will make an effort to do that. Let’s keep these quaint little events like the weekly Farmer’s Curbside Market, The General Store and all the locally owned downtown shops in business by supporting them.


Jim said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful story about the Farmer's Market and General Store in downtown Lakeland. I was not aware of it and found your article intriguing... I will be a regular in the future and feel strongly about supporting the efforts of "locals" to provide such products and events.

truewonder said...

Now I'm stalking you! Pardon the pun, but I'm somewhat fond of the little ears of corn in abundance in my neck of the woods.
I haven't written, been in Ten Mile Tennessee...the blogs of my travels will begin tomorrow.
And, even though I won't be selling at your market, I am so thankful that you stepped up and said "hey people! Buy local!" It meets so many economic,social and even emotional needs. Those folks who grow and don't make much(I'm one of them)are the true heroes of the day, doing what they love, shining the light of love through all that they grow. That is why we farm I think-it's our little defense of a way of life that is a common good for all concerned-making a big impact on the health and economics of our community, for our families, future generations and our neighbors. God knows the bills barely get paid-but it is an honest living, an important stance against the big corporate fatsos who could give a rat's patoot about our well being, our's all about the big moola. Oh, sorry-off on a rant. Thanks for your thoughts, they do make an eloquent difference. Signing off, take care-