Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Middletown Dream: A Covered Farmer’s Market




I don’t think I am betraying anyone’s trust by revealing that board members at a recent Rockfall Foundation meeting (http://www.rockfallfoundation.org)
were brainstorming about what they would love to see happen in Middlesex County in the next five years.

I have similar discussions on a regular basis. Although my friends and I sometimes dream big, more often we come back to basic priorities: smart growth, better land and water management, and resolution of various transportation issues, not least of them the unmentionable route 9 situation.

I do have one hope for Middletown that is a bit more finite and seemingly more lyrical: the creation of a covered farmer’s market that would be open on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I suspect that I am not alone. Word on the street has it that other towns in the area are already looking into building their own markets like the one pictured here.

There are clearly a lot of good reasons to undertake something like this. Leaving to the side the obvious comparisons between local produce and what one generally finds at the supermarket, there is also a strategic rationale. As John Friedlander’s article on the “Farm Bill” (Eye, July 9) points out, Connecticut imports more food than just about any other state and lacks the transportation infrastructure to do so intelligently and cheaply. The more we rely on California, Florida, or even New Jersey produce, the more we sentence ourselves to high prices and food “bred for travel” -- not for taste.

Having frequented farmers markets in Europe and New York city, I can attest to the following: a local farmers market would: 1) provide better food to Middletown area residents; 2) ensure a stable market for farmers’ produce; 3) create a non-corporate gathering space for town residents; and 4) potentially lure people downtown, if that were a potential site.

Even the small town where I grew up in upstate New York (with a similar demographic) has a covered market like the one pictured above. Farmers come from all around, bringing excellent beef, poultry, lamb, cheese, bread, jellies, honey, and loads of excellent produce. Incidentally, they built it right in the middle of a downtown parking lot that was generally empty on the weekend.

What would need to happen in Middletown (coordination among farmers, local government and NGOs) is, of course, another question, perhaps the subject of another post.

(Final note: While I tip my hat to the farmers whom I see on the downtown green on Thursday mornings, the site that has been given to them often lacks parking spaces.)

1 comment:

B3 said...

Rumor has it that there will be a Farmer's Market hosted at Wesleyan every Friday this fall, modeled after the single farmer's market held last spring. I believe it is scheduled for outdoors with the Fayerweather ballroom as a back up site.

I agree with everything Andy has written here. Though I want to support my local organic-friendly store, ION, am so frequently disappointed to go in mid-summer just to see stacks of organic produce from California. Organic is only part of the equation. Instead, my wife and I drive to Glastonbury to go to Old Maid farm. But the question persists: why wouldn't ION want to strike some deals with local farmers? Wouldn't it lower cost, allowing more people to eat healthy? Wouldn't it cut emissions from transportation? Wouldn't it support Connecticut's economy? I know I'm digressing, but these are all issues I think are pertinent, especially since ION, a VERY expensive grocery store, is about to relocate to the not-so-expensively-inclined North End.