At farmers market, learn about food

Even though I would never consider myself a “social butterfly,” I am not short on the gift of gab.

If you get me talking about broad topics such as farming, gardening, landscaping or even baseball for that matter, you run the risk of having to listen to my voice for a while.

As the topics become narrower, the verbosity tends to become even larger: describing the taste of a fresh carrot, the calm feeling that envelops me as I sit in my yard while the sun drops behind the western horizon, my desire to play baseball for the Chicago Cubs (now, my desire for my son to play for the Cubbies).

Speaking of my son, Asher, he just finished his first true season of baseball. While I’m not sure who is more bummed – he or I – that it’s over, I think the whole family got caught up in the romance of our national pastime. That was until Asher, in some strange way, foul-tipped a ball that popped him right in the face. I tried to convince him that blood and blurred vision were part of the game, but he wanted none of that. Fortunately, all ended well. A trip to the doctor and then to get ice cream quickly relieved the stress and pain. He already is practicing for next year.

And like many of you, the summer months push me through the addiction gamut of the Durango Farmers Market. Starting with crisp lettuce to über-sweet snap peas to the aforementioned carrots, then moving on to the warm-season crops of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, and finishing with a delicata or Hubbard squash. The market takes your hand and gently leads you along the sometimes curvy path that is our growing season. Throw in a tasty pastry, perhaps a pizza and even a jar of honey. So while the wallet may be lighter, the belly and the brain will be thankful.

While you are at the market, talk to the producers. Unless you are in the early-morning carrot queue (which reminds me of the “Seinfeld” Soup Nazi episode – move forward, do not push, do not talk too much, grab your bag of carrots, give Chuck your money, move along) or in a line with 10 people behind you waiting to pay, quiz the producers about their growing practices, their challenges and their successes.

That is the beauty of the market: You get to speak to the people who grew or raised your food. There are not too many places where you can do that, so relish the opportunity. I would bet that you will walk away with a greater appreciation of what they do – every day, during the heat of the summer – and the amount of blood (OK, hopefully not blood), sweat and tears that goes into that bunch of beets or that bag of spinach.

And it is years such as this one – with whipping winds, zero moisture and dry soils – that can really create some major challenges (and consequently, good stories) for the vast majority of producers. Challenges such as trying to grow water-thirsty crops when it hasn’t rained for more than a month or attempting to feed an animal when the winter snowpack did very little for our soil moisture can be excruciatingly painful and stressful.

But they seem to do it. And our bodies sure are happy they do. or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.

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