In the US early grocery stores evolved from trade posts. Prior to that food came from forests, bodies of water, gardens and fields. Vegetables were harvested and either consumed immediately, preserved by cooking or kept in cool, dark storage. Meats were cured and stored for winter months. Grains were ground and used to make breads, porridge and sometimes desserts. Nothing was effortless. Nothing was wasted. Planning and budgeting goods was key.
Today’s supermarkets offer an overwhelming experience of choice. Fruits and vegetables are imported from around the world, baked goods are mass produced and meats are fed antibiotics, caged to limit activity and genetically engineered to to increase volume.
Obesity exists in epic proportions, diet related issues like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and tooth decay plague the nation. With great misfortune it is largely the nations poor that suffer most from these preventable diseases.
The USDA has begun issuing cash vouchers for Farmers Markets to supplement low income nutrition programs, they however, are not offered in Missouri and only to a limited population in Kansas.
Perhaps it was Bérénice Chouteau, also known as the “mother of Kansas City” who blazed the trails for early food purveyors in the KC area. After husband François died at age 41, Bérénice was left to support their five children by managing the family farm and operating an early retail business.
Kansas City is entrenched in its agricultural history. Our abundance of farmland and history of food production have earned us the ready image of the nation’s breadbasket. It is in fact those remaining family farms that have sustained time and the onslaught of commercial farming that deliver us back to our roots.
Area farmer’s markets offer not only a great sampling of locally grown seasonal produce but also a lovely palate of color in the form of plants and flowers. Our cultural heritage is proudly displayed with providers from our Mennonite communities, vendors from Latin America, Asia and Africa, to the brave young urban farmers who in many cases have put their university degrees aside to nurture the culture of creating more sustainability.
This summer I’ve become acquainted with a hand full of area farmers markets and food producers that have left their mark on me. Several of them are certainly “off the beaten track” but well worth the trek.
The Atchsion, Kansas Farmer’s Market offers an assortment of locally grown produce, baked goods, natural meats, handmade tortillas and even lovely, goat’s milk soaps. On many occasions robed monks from the local abbey gently meander through, neighbors gather to discuss events and often new friends are made.