What’s the difference between a farm stand and a farmers market?
It’s like the difference between a thread and a shirt. It’s like the difference between a room and a home. You can’t really have a farmers’ market without a collection of individual farm stands.
Still, the stands at farmers markets are not the same as the permanent stands in fixed locations at the farm or the end of the driveway. It’s easier to offer a bigger selection and make more intricate displays if you have a stationary farm stand, which means that there is something unique about the selection at the stand at a farmers market.
While preparing for a market, the farmers have to be choosy when it comes to what goods and produce they will offer. Over time, they will learn the preferences of each unique community they serve and change their offerings to suit their customers.
Your neighborhood farm stand may moonlight at three, four, five farmers markets each week! It’s tough work. There might even be subtle differences between the goods they offer at each of those markets. Top sellers can differ even if the markets are just across town from each other. A town can be so different from the east side to the west.
There are some great things that just won’t travel well. My favorite fruit is mulberry. It’s so sweet and delicious right off the tree, but it would squish and ferment if you tried to transport it any distance. I’m actually surprised that more farm stands don’t offer mulberry. One mature tree could produce a small fortune in pints. I never got sick of eating mulberries as a kid. The walk from my house to my grandmother’s had several neighborhood trees hanging over the sidewalk, offering fruit to passers-by.
Am I wrong? Are farmers markets really, truly more than a collection of individual farm stands? Maybe the market itself takes on a persona? I could wrap my mind around that.
The personalities of the individual farms might change just a bit when they come together in a community market. It’s not that different from anything humans do, really. We all use different language when we are out with our friends than we would in a professional atmosphere. Wild and crazy sports stars fall in line just enough to lead their team during a championship.
The idea of the individual farm stands as a thread that winds through and around all of the others until it makes up the fabric of the farmers market is probably right. It’s a beautiful synergy.