How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To Market To Market

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, dancing a jig;
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog;
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.

So wrote Mother Goose, and generations have had this jingle stuck in their heads. So when Rick Sebak and his team from WQED-Pittsburgh decided to make a paean to public markets throughout the United States, they chose the opening line as both their title and a bit of a quest.

I watch a lot of films about the geography of food and teach many aspects of it in my classes. The films that show what is wrong -- drastically wrong, criminally wrong -- with our food systems are important and sometimes even enjoyable. This film is different and quite important, as it leads by example. 

To Market To Market to Buy a Fat Pig is a pure celebration of that which is most right about food in the United States. (See Netflix listing -- available in streaming format.) The film explores farmers' markets in nine of these United States. The markets differ in all the ways that markets vary. Some are recent inventions while others have enjoyed a century of continuous operation. Some attract dozens of shoppers; others thousands. Some operate in fixed buildings every day of the week; others are set up in tents on city streets. Some are supplied only by local, organic farms; some include seafood; some include a lot of food pre-packaged or prepared on the premises.

In our own community, a small group of residents have worked over the past years to build and sustain Bridgewater Farmers Market. Results have been a robust mix of successes and difficult lessons, but the market seems close to a critical mass of both vendors and shoppers. As the film makes clear, no single model is appropriate to every community, and Bridgewater continues to work toward a model that will serve this community well.
Farmers markets are about getting closer to one's food, those who produce it, and others who happen to care. In a good market, we can find out more about that food and the conditions under which it is grown, fed, or caught. Several markets in the film offer seafood, as did our Bridgewater market for a few weeks this summer. Markets also encourage cooking -- the actual preparation of food from ingredients -- which we find making a bit of a comeback as the economy tightens and people look for ways to improve their lives while saving money.

I am proud to be playing a small part in the cultivation of a farmers' market in my own town, and equally proud that a young person who once studied coffee with me is now well-known as the manager of one of the most successful markets in the Boston area, the Union Square Farmers Market in Somerville.

Educators who wish to show this video to their classes may find my viewing companion (Word format) useful. Feel free to adapt to your own class, and please notify me if you do so.

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