In the Northwest where I live, we are coming to the end of the harvest season and likewise, the season for farmers markets.

Looking back on the summer, a few things about farmers markets remain fresh in my memory and give me much to look forward to next spring.

Ft. Greene Farmer's Market

Farmers markets are a great community gathering place. There are three or four that I frequent, and each one has its own flavor. Saturday morning markets are alive with people who woke up early to seek prime, crisp produce or to meander around with their fresh bread under one arm, admiring natural soaps, exotic salsas, handspun wool, and endless other handmade artifacts. Weekday evening markets bustle with people picking up some vegetables for dinner or eating at any number of local food vendors while listening to live music under a canopy.

Farmers markets are the ideal place to get local food from knowledgeable growers and to support family farms. They are one of the oldest and most popular methods of direct to consumer marketing for small farms.  The benefit goes both ways.  The buyer supports the grower directly rather than most of the profit getting divided between intermediaries. The grower can tell the buyer exactly how the food is grown, and is usually as proud as can be to do so. The only thing hard about farmer’s markets is not being able to buy from every committed, passionate farmer, and not being able to avail ourselves of all the colorful bounty displayed on every table.

I had quite a few things growing in my own garden and greenhouse this year, so I didn’t buy everything from farmer’s markets. However, I always love walking around and noticing the fruits of the farmers’ hard work. The growers are always more than willing to talk about their trade, even when you say you have a garden and don’t end up buying anything from them. Another thing I love about markets is eating meals there—whether breakfast or dinner—and supporting the local vendors who often use local food, even farmers market food, in their preparation. I’ll eat my meal while walking around appreciating everyone else at the market who takes the effort to display and sell the fruit of their labor.

Until the markets start again next year, I’m going to remember these festive scenes of summer where food is celebrated and community is connected.