Using Food to Build A Community
Two blocks from the city courthouse in Goshen, tucked into the corner of W. Washington Street, is the Mill Race Farmers Market. Some older members of the community may remember this gray-sided building as a sawmill or later, a furniture warehouse powered by energy created on the Mill Race. In May of 2000, however, families biked down the Mill Race bike trail, and cars, and tractor beds transformed the deserted parking lots surrounding the building into a place of bustling activity. This is now a common scene every Saturday morning from 7-1, and Tuesday evenings from 3-7. Upon entering the doors, you will not find remnants of chairs and desks, but tables displaying a variety of produce, breads, soaps, crafts, and many other items. People carrying woven baskets stop to chat with the vendors and purchase a week's worth of produce while musicians from the community play Appalachian folk music on banjos, fiddles, guitars, and one upright bass.
The booths on either side of the market entrance sell herbal vinegar, fabric, and soap. Standing behind the booth directly ahead is Beth Neff, one of the original visionaries of the market. In addition to selling a variety of organically grown apples at her booth, Beth works diligently as the contact person for the Community Sustainability Project (CSP). Recognized as a not-for-profit organization in 1998, the CSP has run a co-operative organic farm in Bristol, the Farmers Market, and is currently working with city officials to promote "smart growth" and to find ways of empowering the community. Members of the CSP are concerned about voicing the needs and wishes of the underrepresented populations in Goshen and educating the public about the environment, nutrition, economics, and a wide range of other topics.
A woman scanning the tomatoes, lettuce, and fruits at Beth's stand finally chooses one dozen Gala apples. She places the bag of apples into the woven baskets hanging on her arm, but no money is exchanged. The woven baskets signify membership in the Mill Race Farmers Market, a unique idea known as Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, that originated on co-operative farms. CSA requires a single payment at the beginning of a growing season. Members pay an initial fee that corresponds with family size and how much produce they intend to buy at the Market. Each week, members choose a certain amount of goods according to the original amount they paid for membership. The smallest membership is $300 for a season, which means 25 trips to Market, and $12 to spend at each trip. Although membership is not required to shop at the Farmers Market, it is an option for people who want to dedicate their time and shopping needs to the Market each week.
Shopping at the Farmers Market puts both the customer and farmer in a situation completely different from a conventional produce market. The customer is much more in touch with the land, learning to eat what is in season...