Gilchrist: Get to know who grows your food

Spare change rules the roost at Gerry Hutchison's booth at the downtown Farmers' Market.

The Pritchard farmer sells around 50-60 dozen eggs at the Wednesday event, which nearly doubles his weekly delivery sales to local businesses, the core of his operation.

People steadily arrive to grab a dozen, some just to chat. There's a huge social factor at the markets, with the chance to meet buyers as diverse as the sellers.

Herb Steele stopped to show Gerry and I photos from his 50 thwedding anniversary celebration last month, as well as one of him and wife Emma as newlyweds. The event drew relatives from B.C. and Alberta, he said, then merrily continued on after we offered appropriate congratulations.

Neither of us knew Herb, but chatting is part of the social fabric of the markets and the moment illustrated how anyone can stop to talk to the farmers, asking questions about how food is produced or just share a personal tale.

I like knowing where my food comes from, which is why I steadily shop the markets. The carton on the eggs in a grocery store may say the chickens are free range and organic, but doesn't describe how the birds provide good insect control with their diet of bugs, and that they also eat grass, grains, greens and bean sprouts.

Yes, Gerry's hens dine on sprouts grown in Pritchard by Zimmerman Farms, which produces for the big grocery distributor Sysco.

That's the beauty of the farmers' markets -every buck spent has the spinoff effect of supporting someone else. Not every situation will illustrate such a direct case of one farmer bolstering another, but each of the people hawking their wares will spend cash here, and possibly pay taxes, too.

(While grabbing a carton of $4 eggs, by the way, look under Gerry's yellow truck for his sweet, brain-damaged border collie and ask about Lou's quiet way of alerting him when something's out of place at Lazy H Farm.)

A few stalls down is Marie Bijok with her array of delectable sweet and savory European baking. A pasty chef for 32 years, she runs Bohemia Bakery from her Westsyde home with the help of her husband and son.

Someone stops to show off a grandchild's photo, another asks if there's anything she can buy for $1.50, to which Marie responds by breaking up a six-pack of butter tarts. It's a personal touch that makes one want to return - that and the quality of the baking itself.

Market newcomer Natalie Vivian of Blackcomb Fiber Farms is spinning. She sells raw fleece and finished items from wool, alpaca and angora and even spins dog hair into yarn, showing off a tiny coat made from her Belgian shepherd's coat for a friend's Chihuahua.

Who would have thought a sweater could be made from dog hair, a curio that would have remained unknown had I not stopped to talk (only dogs with downy underhairs need apply, the bristly guard hairs don't work, she says).

It's this type of information that make the markets such a rich experience, that and knowing you're supporting someone local who may, in turn, support you.

So get out there and take in one of the weekly markets (details, history and recipes at www.kamloopsfarmersmarket.com); it tastes good and feels good, too.

tgilchrist@kamloopsnews.ca

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