by Shauna Cook
Before working at Farm Fresh RI as an AmeriCorps VISTA I had never set foot in a farmers market. I didn’t have some moral stance against fruits and vegetables, nor did I have any particular loyalty to the grocery store I usually shopped at. I didn’t typically go because, well, I didn’t feel like I fit in there. I wasn’t really a super healthy eater. I didn’t (and still don’t) really know what a leek is or its purpose, and I’m not anyone who might be mistaken as a “foodie.” I felt more comfortable getting vegetables from who-knows-where because I was afraid to go to a farmers market and be self conscious about not belonging.
But after only 10 or so minutes of working at Farm Fresh I instantly saw how wrong I had been. “People get this idea that I only eat local food and will yell at them if they forget to go to the farmers market,” my new coworker said in my very first meeting. I was relieved because I had assumed this was going to be the case with every person I worked with at Farm Fresh. “But I’m not like that. And it’s not about only shopping at farmers markets, it’s about making fresh, locally grown food more accessible to everyone.”
It was a lightbulb moment I couldn’t believe I hadn’t had before. Fruits and vegetables…not a trend…but a necessity? How had I never realized that before? Fresh fruit and vegetables should be for everyone and it’s actually quite crazy how this notion of farmers markets only being for a certain type of person has caught on.
After my meeting I was energized by the idea of contributing to the local economy and maybe even trying a vegetable I had never heard of. So a day later I put on a brave face, got into my car, and drove down to the Armory Farmers Market.
Ok, I also had to work at the Armory Farmers Market. I guess I can’t take credit for an act of bravery. But, still. It was my first farmers market. And after I was done shadowing for work, I got $20 worth of Fresh Bucks tokens and stood in line at my first vendor — a tent full of red, plump tomatoes.
“I’ll take the one in the back,” I told the woman behind the table of vegetables. I pointed to a very large, very ripe looking tomato I imagined being sliced onto a BLT later in my kitchen.
The woman smiled at me inquisitively. I started to get nervous, even though I thought I had put my odd market fears behind me. I was afraid she was going to yell “THIS GIRL HAS EATEN FAST FOOD IN THE PAST 30 DAYS, GET HER OUT OF HERE!” and the market alarm for frauds like me would go off, sending two guards my way to remove me.
Of course, that didn’t happen.
Instead, the woman very kindly asked me one simple question: “Just one tomato?”
“Oh,” I said, relaxing. “Yes. Just one. Thank you!”
I left the market with just my single red tomato and the decision to finally put my former perception of farmers markets behind me for good. Farmers markets are for everyone. Fruits and vegetables are for everyone. And I, an eater who enjoys tasty food, most definitely belonged there, just like any and all other eaters out there.
About Shauna Cook
Originally from New Hampshire, Shauna has spent the past few years living around the country — everywhere from Las Vegas to Mississippi. Yet nothing quite felt like home. So after seven years away, she has finally returned to the Northeast for good. With a bachelor’s degree in English and currently working toward her Master’s in Public Relations, Shauna views the world through storytelling. Connecting with others through writing is something she is passionate about. She is excited to use that passion to connect the community to local, sustainable food in her year of AmeriCorps VISTA service at Farm Fresh. In her free time you can find her running, reading, or telling her golden-doodle not to eat something she found on the ground.