A few additional thoughts on this week’s cover story in The Memphis News on farmers markets and food deserts from the reporter:
The efforts chronicled in the story, which is still in the racks through Friday, involve more than a dash of déjà vu.
Occasional fruit peddlers whose chants as they pushed carts through the streets of inner city Memphis were a part of so many childhood memories and were still seen in some neighborhoods as recently as a few decades ago.
It’s an image older Memphians still recall with some fondness. The image is part of an inner city world now vanished that author Gloria Wade Gayles wrote about in her book “Pushed Back to Strength”
No carts and no chants in the later years, just a beat up pickup truck parked on a vacant lot or even by the side of a busy avenue.
The farmers market on Scott Street was long the place for families in Memphis stretching food dollars. No live music or posters extolling health benefits. The Scott Street market in its prime was pickup trucks backed under a pavilion, bushel baskets, burlap sacks and fruit crates. Farmers with hardened hands in straw hats and overalls did the selling with few words. If they had a bountiful crop the entire family might make the trip to the city to help sell it.
Experienced shoppers knew who and what was likely to be there based on the seasons.
It’s a factor organizers of the Memphis Farmers Market thought they would have to deal with.
MFM board chairman Susan Kitsinger said it’s been an “easy transition” for customers used to everything being available, albeit at higher prices, no matter what the season.
It seems that before we got hung up with urban and suburban and what those words entailed, our city was a place with lots of people not far removed from the rural who adapted that to the environment of the biggest city in any direction for 300 miles or so, built atop the most fertile soil in the world.
It’s proof that our inner cities need not be and have not always been places defined by what they lack.
The knowledge might have been misplaced but not lost with the rise of supermarkets, but is apparently still within the mind’s reach even this far from the city’s roots in agriculture – from the family farm to the truck farmers.
The Memphis Farmers Market’s signature fundraiser each year has been a “Harvest Celebration” in November, the not so distant cousin of the Harvest Ball.