Smile Politely

Why I Market

When my husband and I moved to Champaign-Urbana a couple of years ago, I was less than enthusiastic about the idea. It was nearly five hundred miles away from my hometown. In fact, before I moved here, I had lived within forty miles of the city I was born in for all but two years when I was in graduate school. But, situations change, and as you age, you find yourself doing things you never thought you’d do.

Take my husband (please!). I’m sure when he registered to vote as a Republican back in high school, he never dreamed he would end up married to a woman who wishes she could walk more than she drives, who tries to compost under the sink in an apartment, and who honestly believes the food we eat is going to be the difference between living a long, happy life or living as a sickly drone full of sugary, processed comestibles.

Which is why, upon moving here, I was thrilled to learn that summer Saturdays I can walk over to Urbana’s Market on the Square, buy locally grown fresh foods and actually speak to the people who work to bring that provender to the public.

I am not a devout “localtarian.” Nor do I buy all organic, fairly traded foods. I wish I could, but it’s not in the budget for us at this time. I do, however, try to learn as much as I can about what we eat, how our bodies use that food, and what the effect is on ourselves and our planet. Being able to speak to growers and producers of the food we buy is, I think, one of the most responsible things we can do as consumers. At the Market, I have the chance to do just that: if it’s a baked good, I can ask what the ingredients are. I can find out when and where fruits and vegetables were planted, picked, and brought for purchase. I can ask what kind of diet the animals were fed before their meat is available for me to buy. I know where the food comes from, who the people were that did the labor, and who is getting the money I am paying for that food. I can feel good about the whole transaction, because I was an active participant in it.

Which brings me to the larger reason I love the Market. Moving here was scary for me. It took me away from everything and everyone that I knew. And although I love people, it can be difficult to know where to find those people, especially ones with which I might have something in common. While I’m not saying everyone who goes to the Market has the same outlook as I do, it does give me a chance to be with people who are artistic, expressive, passionate, and social. My husband, who admits to being none of these things, actually likes to go. He likes the atmosphere of fun, the fresh air, and the fact that he can have a cookie if he doesn’t complain too much. I think what he is really responding to is the fact that Market at the Square is a community event. As someone who came from a strong community, I welcome the chance to go there, and I’m glad I have the chance to share it with him.

Shopping at the Market is a different experience than shopping at a store. It’s an adventure. If you have not taken part in it, I strongly suggest that you give it a try before your life finds you somewhere else. Take a friend. I’ll be there, too.

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