On a blisteringly hot day last week when it became apparent that my daughter would not be taking a nap I fled the house with both kids in tow. We headed to the Thursday Farmer’s Market down the street. It takes place inside a cute red barn and I was sure the change in scene would do us all some good. Plus, sometimes they have baby animals there.
Upon arriving I discovered that we were the only customers. This can be awkward because all the vendors stare at you when you walk in and as they are limited to selling what is in season they basically all have the same goods. I took a page out of Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, and vowed to buy something from each of them. The first farmer I came to was a little bit scraggly (a good sign for a farmer I think) and asked if he could give my 2 year old daughter a Hershey’s chocolate bar. Well. It was 95 degrees and she was wearing a white dress so there was that. But more importantly she is barely 2. Two. 2 years old. My husband and I don’t even give her juice. I realize that we do not represent the norm. Perhaps most parents would have made allowances in this situation but hey- I haven’t been buying sugar-free applesauce for nothing.
Toddlers don’t need refined sugar and it’s a lifelong habit. My daughter is happy with her broccoli and her pears and I’m certainly going to keep it that way for as long as I can. I knew all this but when faced with the scraggly farmer I couldn’t quite figure out how to tell him that she’d prefer a nice crunchy green bean. Suddenly a second farmer appeared and after taking a look at my expression she said, “I guess she doesn’t get to go to McDonalds too often, right?”
This sent me a little bit over the edge. “McDonalds?” I stammered. “No. Never. We have never taken her there.” I tried to rearrange my expression so that it resembled something neutral.
“Never?” asked the farmers incredulously. At this moment I missed my Eugene Oregon friends more than I can say. Not that they don’t have a McDonalds in Eugene. They do. In our circle of friends however the assumption was that everyone avoided McDonalds instead of frequenting it. After this exchange I felt sad. If farmers can’t understand the reasons for avoiding massive amounts of saturated fats and staying away from processed sugar, then who can? In my head I was aware that the words, “But you’re a farmer,” were threatening to come out of my mouth.
I bought some green beans from Farmer #1 and moved on to Farmer #2 for potatoes, then #3 for beets, and #4 for peaches. I left with some produce, a renewed vow to keep my children away from the fast food chains for as long as possible, and the knowledge that even after being here a year Southern Maryland is still going to take some getting used to.