November is here, and the last farmer's market of the season in Emmaus is on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. This week things are already winding down. The vendors are thinning out, and the crowds are filled with hard-core regulars rather than the summertime occasional shoppers.
In the few short years that this market has been going on, I realize just how much it's become an integral part of my life, and of my joy in life and in food. It's not just about the food...although it is about the food. This time of year there is fresh apple cider and crispy, unusual apples and Asian pears. There are salad greens in the most delicious and delightful combinations, better than anything you could get in any supermarket anywhere in the world. I have to buy enough frozen Buffalo meat sticks (the ones that taste like Lebanon baloney) to get me through the winter. And then there are the smoked and dried hot peppers, and, this year, smoked peppers and garlic in olive oil. And pea shoots for stir-fry. For another week or two, at least, we will eat well.
But it's not just about the food, it's also about the people who grow the food. Each one has a different talent and specialty, and there isn't a bad personality in the bunch (at least not that I'm aware of). There is the guy with the crazy hat with feathers stuck all over it who is still struggling with Lyme disease, but is an awesome forager -- I can count on him to have wild black raspberries in June (and it's his smoked peppers I'll be eating all winter, as well as my own dried cayenne). Then there is the very sweet buffalo guy, who sells buffalo rugs and hats and mittens as well as meat. The wonderful family that grows incredible micro greens weren't there this week, and I will eagerly await their greens (and her soaps) again in the spring. Jean Nick, Rodale.com's very own Nickel Pincher, was there selling chickens and showing off her ridiculously fabulous chicken purse. Then there is the family that grows perfect vegetables and herbs, which I know Alice Waters would rave over if she came to Emmaus. I love to watch their family grow, from just a couple, to a pregnant couple, to a family with cute baby who is now walking. Speaking of families, George and Melanie's son Don just got married, and he and his new wife made the incredible smoked pepper and garlic in oil mixture that is amazing. Don says my pig is ready to be picked up next week. It escaped twice this summer! But this time, unfortunately, there is no escape -- half of it is going straight into my freezer. Poor thing. Yum.
I secretly love the fact that all of them notice I haven't been there for a few weeks. Between my crazy new job and getting swine flu, I haven't been able to get myself out of the house on a Sunday morning. But this week I did, and it was good. And I realize that when I'm shopping for food from all of these hard-working, smart, and wonderful people, I'm not just getting nutritious and delicious fresh food, I'm getting a feeling of love. I can feel the love they have put into growing their food. And I feel love for all of them for doing it so well, and for bringing me so much pleasure and health.
Times have changed. This farmer's market never would have happened 10 or 20 years ago in this small American town. But here it is, revitalizing the whole town as well as its citizens. So when I feel down about the state of the world and how things have changed for the worse, I think about the Emmaus Farmer's Market and remember that there is good change, too. And there are good people. Growing good food. Making the world (and my world) a better place.
I'll miss all of you over the winter! But I'll be back in the spring.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.