Back to the market

It’s a chance to breathe in fresh air, to encounter all kinds of people, and for life to slow down for a moment

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There's so much to love about spring and summer in Chicago, but one of the outdoor activities I'm looking most forward to is frequenting the farmers' market.

Let's take a moment to spotlight local farmers' markets. Of course, the physical health advantages of buying whole, sustainable, locally grown food are obvious. But along with the physical benefits, the farmers' market, for many of us, can be a boost to our mental and even our spiritual state. 

It's a chance to breathe in fresh air, to encounter all kinds of people, and for life to slow down for a moment so we can focus on apples-the Gala and Honeycrisp varieties, as opposed to the ones buzzing in our pockets. At the farmers' market, we are availed the rare opportunity for farmers and shoppers to interact directly with one another.  

The market serves up a collision of the senses-the colors, the smells, the tastes-a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, peaches, and plums; the fragrance of fresh basil, cilantro, and garlic; and the most delicious array of butter, farm fresh eggs, and cheeses.   

I can trace farming back through my family tree. After immigrating to America from Russia in the 1920s, my late Grandpa Harry fulfilled his lifelong dream of owning a dairy farm with his brothers, earning the distinction as one of the first Jewish farmers in Wisconsin.  

We don't often think about it this way, but the farmers' market reflects Jewish values. After all, stewardship of the earth, planting season tied to the Jewish calendar, ecological restraint, and food justice are all core Jewish values. Agricultural matters abound in the Torah and other ancient Jewish texts, including one of the six sections of the Talmud--called Zera'im , or "Seeds"--devoted primarily to agricultural laws.  

The farmers' market takes me back to childhood. My father and I would wake up early on Sunday mornings from May through September and head out to our local market. We'd buy berries, sweet summer corn, and asparagus for my mom to cook with, and I'd help my dad select fuchsia impatiens and other annuals to plant in our garden.  

A few decades later, life comes full circle. One of my favorite new traditions with my young daughters--ages 2 and 1--is strolling through our neighborhood farmers' market together. Especially after being cooped up and isolated because of the pandemic for so long--the majority of my girls' so far short lives--I relish the chance to show them the joys of the market. 

As my daughters bloom, I hope they'll treasure our bonding time at the market as much as I cherished mine alongside my dad. And I hope our fieldtrips to the market raise their awareness about what it takes to get our food from the earth to the table.  

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