June 23, 2020
Markets have been important meeting places for thousands of years.
It is part of the human experience to assume a role within a larger group of people. From primitive life to modern, there have always been those who took on roles of hunting, gathering, and gardening while others took on different roles that supported the community as a whole. People regularly traded products and skills.
As human civilization developed, these roles became more distinct. We had farmers, bakers, construction workers, potters, wood workers, blacksmiths, healers, sculptors, entertainers, scholars, etc. A meeting place for all of these different role players was the market place, which was typically the bustling centre of the community.
More recently, with the discovery of fossil fuel and readily available transportation by air, water and over land, we saw the whole world as a source of anything we need or want with very little consideration for what is available locally. It’s often cheaper to purchase in bulk from thousands of kilometers away where labour is cheap than it is to drive a kilometre down the road to a local producer. To deal with bulk purchases, we needed to set up huge stores in our communities with regular sales to bring in the people. And so, we slowly drifted away from the whole concept of a self-sustaining community.
This situation has made our communities more and more vulnerable. The current pandemic has served to make us uneasy about depending on others for our food and recognize the potential of our yards as places to grow our own. This is a good place to be as we begin setting a new course for our collective future.
Small, well-organized communities are the future. These small communities would thrive on the interconnectedness and interdependence between its members and the natural environment. We have the technology to stay in touch with fellow humans around the planet, but it is by focusing on working together on the small scale that we reduce negative environmental impact, appreciate the skills of those making up our community and see our own role in ensuring the well-being of all in our group and ultimately the planet.
It is ironic that in the face of the common threat of Covid-19, large stores were open for purchase of food, but farmers’ markets were shut down. Many small farmers have been scrambling to find an outlet for their products. Large farm operations that depend on foreign workers were hard pressed to plant and harvest their crops as there have been few willing local workers.
This situation re-emphasizes the need to see the big picture but to focus on small local producers as we move forward. The larger the operation, the less flexibility can be built into it. A few small family farms can provide plenty of wholesome food to supplement what other members of the community are growing in their own spaces. The fewer the hands from field to table, the greater the food security so vital to the well-being of any community.
It is time to reopen the markets and allow for consumers to connect with local producers. If we can maintain a 2 metre distance in a large food store, in a park or on the beach, we can do so at a Farmers’ Market.