I grew up in suburbia, closer to more urban areas than farms due to continual real estate development of my home state. There were a few farms just short drives away from us, and we did the typical fall activities: picking apples, weaving through corn mazes, and choosing our pumpkins while drinking warm cider. We occasionally went to a farmer’s market instead of our supermarket, but it was only this past year that I spent any significant time with farmers and learned some of their stories.

I worked in Minnesota as a hospital chaplain resident, just a few miles away from where farmlands stretch as far as the eye can see, and many of my patients were life-long farmers. I got to know their stories of hardship, patience, persistent dedication, love of animals, and deep satisfaction in watching seeds grow from nothing into something. Their hands had tilled, fed, and facilitated something new arising in the world. They had unique heartiness and senses of humor. Their lives humbled and inspired me. Their diligence not only affected their crops and animals, but their families as well. They had some of the richest relationships with their extended families that I’ve had the privilege of seeing. It was a gift to spend time with them.

My time with them multiplied my joy in and dedication to shopping locally. While I lived in Minnesota, I was lucky enough to be just a few blocks from the city’s farmer’s market. Almost every Saturday morning, a few friends and I would spend time admiring the work of people’s hands, finding recipe inspiration, and eating (and eating and eating!).

Though those simple days seem so distant, when I’m hesitant to be in a crowded place, I was still able to order from my farmer’s market online and do no-contact pickup. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

There are many ways of showing up for our local communities, and we need to do so more than ever as people face poverty at unprecedented levels and are not being sufficiently supported by the government. Buying from your local farmers is one of the most delicious ways to do so – and in some towns, you’re even able to pay using SNAP benefits.

Search “[your town/county] farmer’s market online order” and see if it’s possible to offer that support from home, followed by a brief pick-up. (Even if not, it’s still so worth it to go in-person as long as you stay sufficiently distant from others.)

Look up and try out recipes with meats, vegetables, and produce that you’ve never cooked with before! I loved learning more this past year.

Make sure to say thank you and give a smile that somehow can be experienced through your mask.

Talk to your friends about the market and encourage them to consider the ways their food purchases impact others. The prices are often not that different from a supermarket, and when they are indeed different, you can safely assume that it’s because there’s no underpaid labor involved in its production.

Cook and enjoy!

Emmie Arnold

Emmie Arnold is a hospital chaplain, survivor and thriver, blogger at Illness to Wellness, musician, and optimist.

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