Your Connection to the Farm

first_asparagus.JPGThey say a picture is worth a thousand words, and boy am I glad to know that today. We opened in Reston on Wednesday a market which will eventually be the largest we have ever managed. The last-minute machinations are always so hectic that I was afraid I would not have time to write this week. But in spite of the homily, I will add a few more words of explanation and gratitude to this great picture.

I got a call the other day from Max Tyson Jr., our fruit farmer extraordinaire and vegetable cultivator as well. He had been trying to send me this picture via his phone and it wasn’t going through, but he had to call and tell me that he had just picked the first “bunch” of asparagus of the season – not bunches or boxes – but the first single bunch from the entire patch. I could hear the anticipation and pride in his voice. When I got home and saw the picture on the computer, I had to admit that the picture tells the story pretty well. Caring hands picking his own crop, the first real spring crop of the season, and even though it happens every year, it is still a miracle when it does.

Our farmers have been in the fields literally into the night for weeks now. Ignacio emails that he is sorry he cannot come to market yet; he has too much work in the field, and he is very tired. Baron Faust of Fossil Rock Farm writes that because of the “much extended winter,” it will be a couple of weeks before he can come. Curt Shade is just waiting for his tulips to get a little higher, and Mike Burner tells me over the phone in his greenhouse at 9 p.m. at night that he can hardly wait to come to market in a week or so.

We have no idea how hard these guys work to feed us, and I wonder how many of us suburbanites could even do the work. This is the connection between farmer and market shopper that a grocery store can never replicate, no matter how many signs and pictures they put up to tell us about their suppliers. Those large suppliers are not in the grocery store telling us how they grow their produce, and they certainly aren’t getting that retail price that the small farmers need just to get by. Our farmers need us as much as we need them. That’s the connection, and that’s what makes us feel good about shopping at a farmers’ market.