Agriculture, Friendship, Kansas

Down at the Farmer’s Market

Saturday’s are my day to sleep in. Unless I’m getting up for a K-State football game or I’m off on some adventure, the world should not expect to see me until at least 10 a.m.

But a few weekends ago my curiosity finally got the best of me. I finally made my way down to the Manhattan Downtown Farmer’s Market. And I drug Nicole, my favorite fellow ‘Eastern-Oregon-native-turned-KStater’ with me {we’ll work on smoother title for her later.}

Farmer’s markets have always intrigued me. I think that fascination partially comes from growing up in a family retail business and the enjoyment of attending random flea markets and antique shops with my family. I think that there’s something admirable about an entrepreneurial spirit and poetic about finding a treasure amongst other people’s trash. Combine that with my passion for agriculture and the fact that there are many hot topics that revolve around farmer’s market, it really is a surprise that this was my first time. When I lived in Wichita and Kansas City each for a summer, I was disappointed that I was never able to make it to either of the ones held in those cities. So once I got a bit more settled into Manhattan being my new long-term home, it went to the top of my “good year” bucket list.

Nicole and I had a great time seeing all of the odds and ends, colors and of course, interesting characters. The market has everything from food and handmade jewelry and paintings to spices and a variety of bees wax products. {Note to self: learn more about bees.} I think my favorite part was the sunflowers and the lady with the table of spices and herbs. I think she could have talked to us for the rest of the day if we had stayed. Now with Nicole and I being a student and recent graduate in agricultural communications, we took a lot of interest in the food aspect of the market. The organic foods and local foods movement {which can be two different things} have  a large stake in farmer’s markets. When it comes to this whole organic business, most know that I have my opinion and respectfully choose to purchase what is referred to as conventional foods. I will say though, that I don’t say that with fighting words prepped and ready to unleash. Right now those are reserved for a certain deli that is making some poor marketing decisions. {Yes, I’m looking at you Panera.} Organic farming has found itself a successful niche market and when it comes down to it, if there is a demand for it and a profit to be made, well then part of me can’t stand in the way of giving the people what they want. And when it comes to actually becoming certified organic as a farmer, it is a long and expensive process, and so , I can summon up some respect for someone who invests hard work and dedication into what they believe in. Remember, he or she is still a farmer, trying to make a living off the land to contribute to the food supply and often resembles the farmers that we carry a flag for, they just choose to go about it a little differently. Now before it starts sounding like I’ve gone soft, I assure you, my opinion to not buy or eat organic food as a consumer and agriculturalist remains the same. Don’t bail on me yet friends. This week the hot article across social media came from Henry Miller’s Forbes article, Is Organic Agriculture Affluent Narcissism?  I agreed with what Miller said and with my friends who shared it and echoed their support. It was refreshing to see the article garner that much attention. But I will rise up to voice my subtle concern that while it was a strong, factual article and did a great job of rallying the troops, I think that at times, its tone might of caused us to lose some of the audience who needed to read it the most. Sorry sir, but calling Whole Foods a “rip-off artist” and practically telling those who choose organic that they might as well be a cult isn’t going to help anyone. It’s a hard position to be in. I too get frustrated when we’re standing with the science in our hands and still it turns into a argument of values and what’s hip, not knowing the whole story and trying to convince others that they aren’t even using the definition of organic correctly. And when someone tries to tell me that we can continue to feed a growing world population on that system, it leaves me just about speechless. But I truly believe we have to be having conversations and sharing the facts on a level that means something to the average consumer, and we can’t give up. Let’s just work on getting them with a bit more kindness instead. I encourage everyone to ask lots of questions and see the whole picture. You can start by listening to Nicole’s interesting perspective over on her blog.

That took us on a bit of a detour, but considering the article came out soon after my visit, I felt like sharing was appropriate. The market didn’t only consist of organic food vendors, which was encouraging. We didn’t end up purchasing anything aside from Nicole’s sample stick of honey, but it was definitely a great experience and an enjoyable morning.

I’m pretty sure we are definitely planning on going back.

– Amanda

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