Someone recently attempted to explain a drop in customers at our area farmers’ markets by saying the local food trend is over. Could this be true? Could eating local go the way of South Beach or Atkins?
Here’s what I know: attendance at the farmers’ market we attend is smaller than in recent years. What I don’t know is: why? No one that I talk to has a convincing answer.
A small group of dedicated early morning customers come out almost every Saturday to buy their groceries. A larger group of dedicated shoppers shows up later to buy the main portion of the their coming week’s groceries. The folks that show up later mostly seem to be looking for something to do on a Saturday morning. These folks are not buying groceries by and large.
So it is true: something is missing in Memphis. Nationally, the dominant food trends are catching fire and headed in the same direction. And there is a small dedicated group of followers of the paleo, keogenic, vegan and local food movements in Memphis. But for its size, Memphis falls far behind similar cities--even smaller southern cities.
Despite what this may sound like, I do harbor hope. The followers of these national food movements are all on the hunt for something, be it: optimal health, good stewardship of the land, clean food, ethical meat or even great tasting fresh food. I have hope in the knowing that these folks are on the hunt. When done well, there is a progression to an individual life, a culture and even a society.
From my view, the paleo world and the vegan world both focus on paying attention to your body--on making sure that food is nutrient dense so that you optimize your health. Sure paleo has a anthropological philosophy which generates rules for your diet and vegans have ethical red lines. And yes, like two opposing Christian denominations, they both seem to think they have the only true path to heaven. But these are the dedicated folks that are on the hunt for health and renewal. They get to the market early. They want the best stuff. They may be focused on eating in accordance with the rules of their dogma but they are at least heading in the right direction; they’ll eventually realize that the reason my products taste so damn good is because my soil is so rich and my pastures so clean. See, my food doesn’t just taste good, it is good. It is the fruit of regenerative agriculture. It holds the promise of carbon sequestration. It paves the way to human health.
So I don’t know what's missing in Memphis but I hold out hope that the dedicated individuals that are on the hunt for health and vitality will eventually come to recognize that their body is tied to the soil under their feet. Maybe then they’ll support their local farmer AGAIN.