For many locals, the first edition of the Greenville Earth Market in South Carolina today will be an eye-opening experience, offering an interesting array of foods from unique breeds and varieties raised and grown in the region but little known. And as the very first Earth Market to be established in America, the market will be raising many questions – starting with how does an Earth Market differ from other farmers’ markets?
Coordinator of the Greenville market and Slow Food Upstate leader Janette Wesley explained that while there are around ten farmers’ markets in the metropolitan area, they wanted to establish an Earth Market to emphasize the importance of each aspect of Slow Food’s “good, clean and fair” philosophy and showcase producers who embody it. Simply stated, Earth Markets are farmers’ markets that follow guidelines developed by Slow Food and are promoted and organized by a community committee.
In Greenville’s case, an impressive number of local products, breeds and varieties that are listed on Slow Food’s international catalog of rare and disappearing foods – the Ark of Taste – will be available. When in season, shoppers will be able to purchase Ark products such as rare Sourwood Honey; local heirloom vegetables including several tomato varieties and Crowder Cowpeas; and meat from native and heritage breeds including Navajo-Churro sheep, Pineywoods cattle and Ossabaw Island pigs. Seedlings will also be available for purchase, giving home gardeners the chance to grow their own local heirloom vegetables.
Wesley personally visited each of the participating farms as part of the market selection process and commented that: “The beauty is in the detail… these farmers craft food for our tables, artfully considered in every aspect of freshness, taste and health for humans and the land. With this market, farmers who have been working incredibly hard to maintain these standards feel appreciated for the dedication they have towards sustainability.”
Earth Market stallholders can only sell what they produce themselves, and the entire production chain was considered by the organizers, which made the process quite difficult admitted Wesley: “We discovered, for example, that within the entire southeastern region of the United States, there are no cost effective non-GM poultry feed options. While this eliminated some otherwise very good farms from selling at the Earth Market, by bringing attention to the issue we are already seeing change. At least one farm has decided to grow such a feed closer to home and a farmers’ group has been formed to purchase organic non-GM feed in bulk.”
Exemplifying the project’s catch cry of “not just another market”, the new Greenville Earth Market is sure to generate interest and understanding of the potential of regional food identities, helping to build sustainable agriculture and the local economy and perhaps launching an Earth Market network across the country.
The Greenville Earth Market is being held today and then every third Thursday of the month until September: May 19, June 16, July 21, August 21, and September 15.
You can view a collection of photographs of the participating farms on facebook.