Tag Archives: farmers markets

Night Markets

I love markets–those tempting, impressive, generally open-air gatherings of vendors selling things they have grown, caught, made, or traded. Any country I visit, I’ll try to find a good market to explore. I’ve wandered through wonderful markets in dozens of countries, from bright, fragrant Mexican mercados to London’s venerable Borough Market to local farmers’ markets from Egypt to Ecuador, as well as the lovely though generally less bustling gatherings near home.

The title of the post, Night Markets, might conjure images of Asian after-dark markets — such as the Temple Street Night Market in Hong Kong or the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar in Thailand. Loved them both. But what I’m thinking of now is the markets that happen late at night/early in the morning and are geared toward supplying restaurants and grocery stores. Probably the most famous one I’ve visited is the astonishing Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. But thanks to this video, I now have two new destinations next time I make it to the UK. Of course, this also makes me want to find out what might be happening closer to home–but I haven’t found those yet, so I’ll have to settle for the video. Hope you find this as fascinating as I did.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Food, Geography, Travel, Video

Learning from History

As a food historian, I read a lot about the past–not just where our foods come from, but also how the whole process of obtaining food works. There are a lot of things we can learn from the past that might actually help with our own survival.

Most of the history of the world has focused on getting enough to eat. Avoiding starvation is remarkably hard work. Things that worked well didn’t always work for long. For example, ancient Rome. As the city of Rome grew, more and more food was needed—more food than could be supplied by the surrounding farms. So Rome started conquering everyone around them, to get more farms and, as conquered people were enslaved, to get cheaper food. They set up fabulous trade routes, and food poured into Rome. Unfortunately, the cheap food coming in from distant lands dropped food prices to where farmers near Rome couldn’t compete. They left their farms and moved into the city. So more food was needed, but now most of it had to come from far away. That was great–until the pirates became a problem. When pirates cut off all food coming by sea, Rome was in danger of starving. That’s when they decided that, to guarantee their food security, they’d turn almost limitless power over to Pompey. And thus, the republic finally disintegrated.

So it sounds as though eating local is the answer, right? Well, one historian spoke of the “tyranny of the local.” Local food is wonderful until there is a drought or an especially long winter or locusts come through. Then, eating local means dying of starvation.

Sound hopeless? I don’t think so. I think the key concept is balance. Eat local when you can. Support local farmers. You want to make sure they don’t go broke and move to the city. Go to farmers’ market or shop at stores that buy at least some of their produce locally.

But don’t abandon the imports. If local isn’t available, usually because of climate, don’t stop eating. However, try at least to buy things that you could get from somewhere reached by truck or train, as opposed to something that needs an airplane or ocean voyage. Garlic from California vs. from China, for example, at least if you live in North America. Support the people who will be able to feed you if transportation is disrupted. (Remember how long planes didn’t fly after 9/11?)

Feel free to enjoy exotica–things that simply don’t grow where you live. But don’t rely on it. It’s great that we can get food from everywhere, and it’s great that we don’t starve every time there’s a tough winter, but we need balance. And, whatever else happens, we need to make sure we take care of our farmers.

Leave a comment

Filed under culinary history, Culture, Food, History, Thoughts

Business is Mushrooming

I recently had the great good fortune to interview Eric Rose of River Valley Ranch for Farmers’ Markets Today magazine. I had, in fact, been a fan of Rose’s products for some time (though only for a relatively small portion of his 34-year career), and I had suggested a story to the magazine, as it seemed like a great match. So late in February, I drove to Burlington, WI, to check out the farm, the store, and the tale behind Rose’s presence at so many of the area’s farmers’ markets.

When the article came out in print, there were loads of great photos, some of them ones I took. But, alas, the magazine has been shut down and the website to which I originally linked this post is also defunct, so I’ll post the original story below.

And just in case you want to visit the store, or would like to order some of their goodies online (everything is excellent, but I definitely recommend the 5-cheese garlic spread), here’s a link to River Valley Ranch—just in case you don’t live close to one of the many farmers’ markets here in the Midwest where Rose shows his wares each summer.

Business is Mushrooming

by Cynthia Clampitt

Eric Rose loves farmers’ markets-and with good reason. “Farmers’ markets turned my business around.” That business is growing mushrooms, something Rose began doing with his dad 34 years ago. Rose’s dad, Bill, a restaurant owner, had always been frustrated with how unreliable local sources of mushrooms were. When he sold the restaurant, he decided he could become the area’s one reliable supplier, and so was born River Valley Ranch in the Fox River Valley in Burlington, WI. “But dad didn’t want to just grow and supply mushrooms,” Rose notes. “He wanted to grow higher quality mushrooms than were generally available.”

Rose, who had also spent time in the restaurant business, “first got his hands in compost” in 1977. He was immediately hooked on the work, so he joined his dad in the venture. Rose says it was the beginning of a real education-and not just in farming. They originally sold to retailers. Their white mushrooms were better than anything else available, so they could charge a premium price. However, big commercial growers were discovering that preservatives and whiteners (because white mushrooms were pretty much the only mushrooms sold at the time) would let them get impressively handsome mushrooms to market, and at much lower prices than local growers.

Rose explains, “Back then, ‘local’ or ‘home-grown’ were red flags for wholesale buyers. The product must be inferior to things brought from far away, and so it should cost less. We couldn’t compete with the big commercial firms.”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Nutrition