From the Farmers Market: No. 34 of 40 Forts

From the Farmers Market: No. 34 of 40 Forts

From the Farmers Market: No. 34 of 40 Forts

The local food movement has exploded. Last year after Michelle Obama had her own farmers market set up blocks away from the White House, it felt like fresh food filled the streets everywhere you turned.

Taking the locavore to a whole new level, chickens are making a come back in urban areas. Live urban chickens. In teeny, tiny backyards. After listening to a radio show about the benefits of raising chickens and thinking about how tasty my uncle Mickey’s fresh eggs are, I was ready to consider to take the plunge. That is if I ever have a yard again.

For now, I am taking a stab at raising tomatoes. I have a plant I purchased from the farmers market about three weeks ago. It is in a pot next to the TV, which it towers over. And last night I think I saw two sets of the first little tomato buds. I can’t wait. And I have no idea how tall this plant will finally reach.

I had one empty pot to fill. I had sufficiently ignored a plant I had grown for roughly nine years. We finally have black out curtains, which I frequently fail to open in the last year. Without light, the plant died. No surprise there. But I didn’t have another home to protect the plant from little fingers that love to pinch.

So I asked the farmers about the tomato plant. The signage promised that it was perfect for containers. It was three dollars and I hesitated. Finally one shrugged her shoulders and said, “What’s the worst that can happen? It won’t grow.” She was right. This was by no means my greatest financial risk in life. And I think there is a book called The $64 Tomato. Since I already had everything except the plant, I stand to come out ahead with just a few fresh fruits.

Last summer I bought a couple of tomatoes at the farmers market. Or maybe I got them from Mickey’s garden second-hand. I was looking at them on the kitchen counter while I washed my hands. Huh… There was a black irregular ring around the top of the tomato. Almost like a crack or a healing wound. If anyone has seen a home-grown tomato, you know exactly what I’m talking about. All of a sudden it dawned on me. I haven’t seen a tomato like this in years. I mean over a decade. Because they don’t sell tomatoes that look like this in the grocery store. Tomatoes are engineered and shipped in and packaged in plastic boxes. But this is what a tomato really looks like. And just beneath the cracked skin was what a tomato really tastes like.

Henry and I have had an argument off and on for most of April and May. Every time he goes to Safeway, he buys two giant boxes of strawberries. They are ALWAYS buy one get one free. It seems like a great deal until you realize this is not a strawberry. It just looks like a strawberry. But once you bite it, it is white and crunchy on the inside. Plus it is solid. A ripe strawberry is red all the way through and has an empty core. Unripened strawberries are green. This is a parsnip posing as a strawberry.

I was crushed when we went to the farmers market last week and finally saw strawberries for sale. We had three plastic containers of strawberries at home. Today the final full container sits on our counter. Half of the berries are covered in mold.

Fresh cut greens made her mouth dance.

Fresh cut greens made her mouth dance.

When I created this piece, I loved the image of the farmer cutting the greens with knife still in hand. One of the earliest produce items available are the salad mixes. I love spicy arugula, aka rocket, more than any other green. Imagine my disappointment when a bag of rocket from Trader Joe’s applied upon opening. Upon inspection, the giant bag even read use within two days. Then imagine my delight when a fuller bag of greens from the farmers market was still fresh well over a week later. The flavor was delish. This is how to spice up your salad life.

This train of thought is how I arrived at:

Fresh cut greens made her mouth dance.

The text is written on a piece of green card stock tucked inside of the negative space where the greens once were. Now they are flourishing on top of the fort in a small fold.

So farming is the new big, hip thing. Incredible. I love it. I am so happy that something that was so much a part of my childhood, which was almost completely lost after my grandfather’s stroke in 1985 save Mickey’s garden, has made such a thriving resurgence.

It makes me want to go back to the farm and look for the lost outlines of the fields. I’m sure the barns and old cars are beneath the pines. What about the apple trees? They must be there. And what about that giant single tree that stood way out in the center of the field. I can see it so clearly from the edge of the strawberry patch. Countless summer evenings where spent picking, strawberries and blackberries. And just a few bushes of blueberries and blackberries.

One of my favorite activities is to look at our old farm on Google maps and virtually drive down Friendship Road to Memaw’s house. I tried to make out where Papa made molasses, but I don’t remember well enough.

notice the hand holding the cutters and the leaf on top of the fort

notice the hand holding the cutters and the leaf on top of the fort

It is nice having a strong enough memory to know enough about farming to talk with your local farmers. This past week a conversation with a farmer about North Carolina resulted in a huge bouquet of peonies for Lucy’s birthday party for a steal. My accent tipped him off. He said, “It’s the end of the day and the end of the season.” It helped me feel a little more at ease walking through the new Barnes Dance intersection with a huge bundle of blooms in my hand.

I also love to share my favorite personal trivia: I ate homegrown popcorn until I was in high school. Maybe that’s why I can’t stop eating it now. But only if it taste like Memaw’s.

Have some land and need a new gig? Get to organic farming and I promise a foodie is soon to find you. Just look at Durham.

This paper sculpture, roughly the size of a coffee cup, is one of forty forts I created during Lent 2010 as a creative exercise and spiritual exploration.

Read about all of the Forty Forts.

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