The Ancient Beginnings Of The Farmer’s Market
Believe it or not, the OG farmer’s markets were not found on a downtown trendy street avenue that only shuts down for a few hours every weekend to serve you artisan sourdough loaves and kombucha. However, there very well could have been handcrafted doughnuts at their first incarnation.
But, you’d have to ask an Egyptian.
The Ancient Road To The Modern Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s Markets were our nation’s first grocery stores. We rarely think about why there are so many Market Streets in the United States without a market to be seen. What began in ancient times made its way to the United States hundreds of years ago. You would think this sensible city planning move, to create a place for local producers and the community to meet and exchange commerce, would be an easy decision.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the government had other plans. They began favoring big industry, commercially owned farms, and a piece of the pie over supporting small farmers’ interests. But don’t worry, peaches will save this mess.
Thank an Egyptian
That’s right, the Egyptians were responsible for more than just our modern-day calendar. They also hosted farmers and Egyptian entrepreneurs selling their wares along the Nile River over 5000 years ago. In addition, they attracted local communities and travelers alike, creating one of the first instances of a circular economy.
From the Nile to Beantown
Farmer’s markets as we know them today began in Boston in 1693 and found footing in several large cities soon after. They were a primary resource for everything from food to furniture, medicine to repairs.
As the advent of the grocery store came into the picture, these markets became less of a primary shopping area as farms began to be pushed farther away. What is left is a “Market Street” in every major city, where once there were farmers slinging their seasonal produce.
However, we can say we made the Egyptians proud when, in the 1970s, two forces combined to bring back the local market revolution: a burgeoning generation of health-conscious housewives and peaches. Too many peaches.
A Peach Problem
The Peach Revolt of 1977 might have not been covered in your history class, but it has an important role in farmer’s market history. This was the year that California and Governor Jerry Brown had a problem. A peach problem.
Before this time, farmers were not legally allowed to sell directly to the public, a radical idea. However, due to an unprecedented surplus of peaches that year that was destined not for a hot cobbler but the waste pile, the state of California relented. It might have been for the legislator’s own love of peach pie or for the fact that farmers dumped untold amounts of rotting fruit on the state capitol’s lawn, but laws were changed to allow farmers to begin commerce directly with the public.
Today the USDA estimates we have over 8,000 farmer’s markets across the United States. They support countless jobs, artisans, and traditional ways of creating.
Not only do we have the choice to support local producers, but we are supporting the local small business economy. The Farmer’s Market Coalition estimates that over 2.4 billion sales are generated for local farmers each year through the Certified Farmers Market system.
The moral of this history lesson, hug your farmers. They are the reason you have locally grown peach cobbler and so much more.