A Tale of Two Farmers Markets

Gatekeepers on the road to Dunkin

Gatekeepers on the road to Dunkin

So I promised you a discussion on my feelings about the two farmers markets near my apartment, before last weekend went all weird on me. It breaks down like this: there’s a farmers market that I go that I think people go to out of a sense of social obligation, and a farmer’s market where people go to actually buy tomatoes.

The first of these two farmers markets is a ten minute or so long bus ride from my apartment. Luckily there’s a bus stop directly across the street from me. It’s not that it’s not a bad market by any means, in fact, it gets rated as being Buffalo’s ‘best’ with an alarming frequency. My favorite apiary vends there, and it does open earlier and stays open longer than a great many of the other ones in the city. They even started a winter branch this past December.

I like it well enough. But I get the impression sometimes that people go just to say that they go. People go, and they stand around. They hold onto bags of organic greens and the coffee from the bar across the street. There’s normally a fiddler or an accordionist, and I guess that there’s a brisk trade in organic breakfast muffins. It just…doesn’t feel like a farmers market to me. I think of it was the Wegmans effect-it’s not that the produce is bad, but you can get it for cheaper elsewhere, but then you wouldn’t be able to say that you went. And yet I still shop there and at Wegmans so I guess I’m feeding that machine myself.

The second market is within walking distance of my building which I guess in theory should make it my favored market by default. It’s significantly smaller-there’s maybe six booths. The food is local, and there’s still organic breakfast muffins (I had zucchini espresso chocolate the last time I got breakfast there). But the prices, they’re significantly better. And there doesn’t seem to be a Wegmans effect-people actually shop. For a market that’s half the size, this one seems to do twice the business.

I guess the question is whether or not the ‘farmers market as social ritual’ is really a bad thing. I don’ t think it is-and I do wait for the larger market to open the way that a kindergarten waits for Christmas Eve. It’s just the difference between buying a potato and buying a steak-one is pretty standard for me and the other is a splurge. And for the record, if you don’t know what Wegmans is, your grocery shopping experience is sadly missing a lot.


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