A Jot from Jane : The Great Barrington Farmer’s Market

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: At jane iredale, we believe that our activities should be governed by the requirements of our customers and our concern for the environment. We also believe in supporting local agricultural organizations including the Great Barrington Farmer’s Market, which occurs every Saturday from May – October in the jane iredale company parking lot. As part of our company’s ongoing support of the GB Farmer’s Market, we also are among the sponsors of their SNAP program, which Jane discusses in her article below. Read on to experience the Farmer’s Market through Jane’s eyes.
Jane Iredale at the Great Barrington Farmer's Market

Summer Begins

I wake up to the soft thumping of farmers erecting their stalls and tents. I know they had a late night harvesting their carefully nurtured vegetables and fruits, baking their bread and pastries (one of the croissants has my name on it!), packing their cheeses and meats, washing and drying eggs, cutting flowers, potting plants, digging potatoes, bottling sauerkraut.  And only then trying to catch a few hours of sleep.

They were up early, packing their trucks and driving carefully along winding country roads to get to the parking lot next to my house, which for a few brief hours is turned into a town square.  Here’s where adults, children, musicians, and dogs of all breeds meet to celebrate the bounty of the Berkshires and the camaraderie of an appreciative community.

The parking lot belongs to our company. When we bought it, Bob and I landscaped it with trees, shrubs, and flowers including rugosa roses and elderberry bushes. We weren’t thinking the lot was going to double as a market at the time, but to our great joy, it did. And ever-resourceful, the farmers harvest the hips from the rugosa roses for jellies and the elderflowers for kombucha (believe me, it’s delicious!).

Bob, Cookie and I stagger out of our back door into the activity at about 9:30 AM. I have a rolling cart because it saves having to carry heavy bags; it also means that I over-buy. Oh, and sometimes Cookie hitches a ride. Breakfast first, we head first to the baker to get two light, buttery, crisp croissants that we take to the young farmer making egg sandwiches from just-harvested eggs. Their yolks are orange and rich. Cookie visits with the dog community; Bob lines up for two cups of steaming coffee. (Heart of Darkness is my favorite.)

Then the shopping begins.  There’s something about the mix of being surrounded by locally-produced food, families of all ages, beloved pets, and music that brings out the best in everyone. People are smiling, conversing, sharing, planning and appreciating. For us, it’s like being at a party. If it’s early in the season, we reconnect with people we haven’t seen all winter. If it’s the middle of the summer, we discuss local politics and events (the Berkshires has everything from the Boston Symphony Orchestra to theater to astonishing garden tours). If it’s towards the end of the season, we make plans to stay in touch and get tips for preserving the summer bounty.

I check with the two dynamic women who manage the market to see how our SNAP program is going.  People with SNAP stamps can double the value by getting tokens at the manager’s stall.  Thanks to four local companies who sponsor the program, people on food stamps can buy fresh produce at half the price.  It helps them and it brings more custom to the farmers.  I’m thrilled to find out that the program is a success.  So much so that we will need to find more sponsors or increase our contributions.

Until Next Year…

In October, a tinge of sadness enters the mix as the market, now the hub of our community prepares to close for the approaching winter. There are fewer farmers, and the ones there have less to show for their efforts. They’re wearing down-jackets now instead of T-shirts. For us devoted fans, there’s a hole in our stomachs as we wander the stalls on the last day saying goodbye to people who have contributed so much to our lives. How do you express your appreciation for all they do to bring wholesome, clean food to our tables along with an enduring love of the environment, and a resilience that many of us never have to dig deep enough to experience?

Now when I wake up on a Saturday morning, only silence greets me. But my freezer and pantry are full of food that will last until the soft sounds of the farmers setting up their stalls start again. Meanwhile, the earth will rest and I hope so will the farmers.

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