Submitted by Peter Atkinson
It turns out that someone on our street works for one of the big food distribution warehouses up in London. Last week I dropped by in the wee small hours to see what it was like.
The bottom line is that it made me feel extremely grateful for our farmers and for the Horton Farmers’ Market. While this place didn’t look all that bad, it just felt like the further the food gets from the farm, the less it’s like food. It becomes a product, like microwaves or paper towels, instead of the food we need to survive.
The stuff you see in grocery stores demands this kind of place; huge cooler rooms coated in dirty foam insulation, water puddling everywhere and what passes for fresh fruit and vegetables stored in cardboard and plastic boxes stacked everywhere, from floor to ceiling.
The grocery stores make our food look pretty but this is the another part of the reality.
I saw some vegetables that were still edible, but stacked behind them was the same type of vegetable from another grower looking in way better shape; I don’t know if the grocery store buyer will look around as much as I did. And sometimes even vegetables from the same grower varied; the ice that was shoveled into the box to keep the vegetables fresh had melted in one box, giving the veggies that slimy feeling while in another box the ice was still solid, keeping the vegetables fresher. But if the distributor offers the first box at a discount, which one will make it to the store shelf?
And the volume of stuff from the US instead of from Canada and even Ontario – never mind Elgin, Oxford & Middlesex counties – wasn’t very encouraging.
I understand that this is just how it is – and the place that I visited really did seem to be well organised and decently clean – but I don’t know if we understand what our own expectations and demands have created in the food industry.
Anyway, that’s that world. Fortunately we have another choice. At the market we can talk to the person who grew the food, sometimes see and feel the earth that it came out of, know that the water used on it is safe and clean and that our spending helps our community.
That same idea of local-ness, (my new word. Patent Pending), applies to all of the vendors at the market, whether they’re selling pizzas or plants or anything in between, you’re talking to the person with the passion and the pride who made what they’re selling.
Come winter time, the market will be closed and I’ll be shopping in the grocery store and the mall because I have to be. But until then, I’ll be, very gratefully, shopping at the market.