Farmers markets have long history

Ahh … Spring has sprung; the anticipation of farmers markets opening bringing beautiful flowers, tantalizing produce, scrumptious homemade bakery, talented crafters all coming together to offer you the best of a community. But — you are in luck! River City Farmers Market is open all year to enjoy! Located at the Washington County Fairgrounds every Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon. A county’s fairground and a farmers market just seem to go together hand-in-hand.

From where do our local farmers markets spring from? Let’s take a little historical walk together. Farmers markets have been around since ancient times but they were more a “market” than a farmers market. All along the Nile in Egypt 5,000 years ago markets were set up to sell produce and grains from local farmers. But freshly caught fish and exotic luxuries from boats that traveled to other lands provided other fare.

Farmers during Roman era would sell olives, grapes, figs, apples, pears, onions, celery, wheat and barley-their crops depended on where they lived in the Roman Empire. Sold at these markets included spices, tools, clothes, sandals, baskets, glass, pottery, furniture and even animals to sacrifice to the gods.

During Medieval Europe “market towns” sprang up in fortified areas that supported protection to a certain extent by a castle or near a monastery. Monasteries and people of wealth in these places purchased not only farm produce and grains but other farm produced items such as wool, tools, including services. A little trivia: In 1086, 50 markets were listed in England. Between 1200 and 1349; 2,000 more markets opened. Markets were held in small districts once or twice a week where in cities they were held daily.

As with all markets, permission had to be granted. This usually was by the king or person of authority; with rules to be followed and money paid.

Markets were a time to socialize by getting news and gossip.

In the mid-1700s markets began to dwindle with shops opening to offer the customer easier access to what they wanted when they wanted it; shops could offer a larger scale of exported goods.

The first farmers market to open in the new world was in 1634 in Boston, Massachusetts.

What will you find at River City Farmers Market? You will find homegrown produce and beautiful flowers. Honey, syrup, meat, eggs…and the list goes on. We support our local small farmer; they work hard to bring us fresh produce and other farm products. These farmer’s harvest their produce the night before or very early in the morning. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Don’t be shy. They love it!

Bakers will provide home baked goods that they baked from scratch. Not to mention delicious jellies/jams and other scrumptious products. There is a gluten-free baker who offers gluten free products, too. Homemade goat’s milk soap made from the milk of the crafter’s own goats. Talented ladies who can sew and/or crochet. Lovely stained glass and pottery. Phenomenal wood-working. Cut and polished stones from all over the world.

There are so many more talented vendors it’s impossible to list them all. So, you just need to stop in and check it out for yourself. Everything is homegrown, homemade, handcrafted with integrity.

So rise and shine everyone! Let the farmers market tradition continue!

Lisa Bell owns Bell Farmstead Bakery & Products and is a vendor at the River City Farmers Market. She is also on the market’s jury for crafts.

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