Only one vendor at St. Alban’s farmer’s market appears able to handle a transaction by credit card. That’s Curtis Brady, who sells USDA-approved pork and beef from a trailer parked in the first grassy spot next to the street.
The others at the Saturday market on Hixson Pike deal in cash. Federal Reserve rectangles are physical, without strings of words and numbers trailing after them. They are plain, direct, like the meat sold by Brady’s Farm Direct Meat LLC. “It’s raised on our farm, grass farmed, and the only time it leaves our farm is to go to the packing plant to be processed and USDA inspected,” Mr. Brady says.
Bryan and Adrian Lowe run a stand for their operation, Lowe’s Family Farm in Evensville, Tenn. Mrs. Lowe is an enthusiast for local products, especially her own ranks of colorful jars. “Because they’re all home-made with all the fresh produce that we grow ourselves. It’s all locally grown and canned and home-made.” How delicious is her fare? “It makes you want to slap yer mother, let me tell you,” she chortles. “Everything we sell we try ourselves, we eat ourselves and if we don’t eat it, we ain’t selling it.”
Her tables are laden with jars of pickles, canned tomatoes, brussel sprouts, corn relish, pickled beets, mixed jellies with hot peppers and fruits and home-made butters. The family prices items “to fit the economy’s needs now. We do not try to overprice anything, and we do not try to make very much money off of it,” Mrs. Lowe says. To stay solvent, Mr. Lowe works 40 hours a week in the Dayton street department. The couple have three children from 3 to 14.
TOUGH FARE AT THE SUPERMARKET prompted Paul Lemke to improve his diet from a garden, and to expand his efforts for sale. Mr. Lemke stands by chatting with his wife, Felicia.
“I started off being very tired of the tough tomatoes you get in the grocery store, so I started growing them on my own and really enjoyed the flavor of them.” Mr. Lemke, who works out of town as an engineer in the nuclear industry, goes into detail in explaining how to cook beets. He tells how his garden repertoire grew. “Now I grow everything year round.”
He goes on: “Local economy makes the national economy overall. But when you buy stuff locally, you are supporting people who live in your neighborhood? You may not care, except if the guy down the street is out of work, then he doesn’t have money to spend on the product you are trying to sell or the service.” If you buy locally grown food, “you know where it is coming from” and have greater assurance that the producer will be careful how he nurses his crop, avoiding “harsh chemicals.”
Two shoppers nearby agreed. Shoppers Randall and Kristy Hicks from Hixson bought lettuce from a stand run by a Girls Preparatory Science teacher, Bryant Haynes. Mr. Hicks says he wants to keep his money in the local economy.
THE SENSE OF PERSONAL CARE is a point made by vendor Aaron Bing, bearded, his head wrapped in a bandanna, who dreams of a “large sustainable farm” outside Calhoun, Tenn., run without chemicals and nourished by rainwater captured in barrels. He is involved in the Scenic City Food Coop that brings together area farmers and consumers. People order online and pick up locally Thursday on the North Shore.
“You might pay little bit more for some things here than at Wal-Mart, but you can find something else that’s cheaper because it doesn’t have to be shipped in all the way from Florida,” Mr. Bing says. “So instead of putting more money in the Big Man’s pockets, you are helping a friend and your neighbor and your brothers and sisters down the road feed their family, and it strengthens the community and — sure — you might end up with a whole lot of money going around in a circle, but it is in that community, and strengthens that community instead of going out elsewhere to some corporate person’s pocket to buy him another yacht.”