Vendors help fill gaps in specialized foods

One of the things I love about local food issues is how it crosses all borders. I haven’t found anyone, regardless of creed, religion, race, or political view, who doesn’t like to eat. Every day.

The other wonderful thing about food systems is that they require cooperation. Even in the caveman days people had to live and work together to hunt and harvest. Today good local food systems still require full participation.

At the Homer Farmers Market last weekend I had this highlighted nicely. Michael, who has a high tunnel of his own, was talking about how well his peas were growing. He is considering the possibility of his daughter vending their surplus at the Market. And meanwhile he was buying Jake’s birch syrup.

Specializing. This is an aspect of a local food system that adds to the vigor and diversity. For example, my husband Neil is an avid gardener, but has terrible luck with basil. If I want to make pesto, I can just go to Jon Kee’s booth and load up. I have tried for years to grow fennel and celery like Paul Castellani, but my lack of success means that my favorite recipes will wait until I have visited his booth.

We grow tomatoes too, but they are so precious that when I have a big chutney recipe that requires green tomatoes, I can’t stand the idea of pulling my own tomatoes early. That’s when I hit Bob Durr’s booth. We grow garlic, but Lori Jenkins makes the braids I would give as a gift. Everyone has their favorite supplier for their individual food system.

This is vital, not only for the local economic benefit to our producers, but also for the long-term sustainability. I don’t have to exhaust myself trying to grow everything and farmers can build reputations by specializing. And Mike’s daughter gets to learn entrepreneurial skills on something simple like peas.

We all play a part. What’s yours? What farmer fills the gaps in your food system? Find out at the Homer Farmers Market on Ocean Drive Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. or Wednesdays from 2-5 p.m.

Kyra Wagner is the coordinator of Sustainable Homer and the Homer Farmers Market’s biggest fan.