It's been coming for weeks, but I've been in denial. Shorter days, changing leaves, even the first storm of the season notwithstanding, I never thought the farmer's market would end. Stalls have thinned week by week, and the offerings have become less varied, but I stubbornly refused to believe. There is no hiding any longer: today is the last one.
Oh, sure, other nearby markets run year-round, and I will make my pilgrimage to those during the coming months. But they're bigger, without the funky, local, small-town feel of my favorite. Squeezed into a church parking lot, the market is a treasured emblem of community, and packs in the faithful May to November. My stop on the way home from work is always a discovery: what's ripe this week, what's coming in or out of season, what new vegetable to try. Sometimes, it's a revelation -- that peach at its sublime, evanescent peak, the ear of corn holding the very heart of summer.
Though they're sometimes inconvenient, I will miss the kids darting randomly between the stalls, plastic dinosaurs in hand. I will miss the fiddlers and the balladeers, though I rarely stopped to listen. I'll miss the knife sharpener's wheel, playing backup for the popping kettle corn. I'll even miss the crappy parking.
Most of all, I will miss the stone fruit man who knows my favorites and keeps me posted on their progress, the tomato farmer with advice on growing heirlooms, the berry guy who extols the virtues of cultivars you didn't even know existed. These people are local food, my local food, and it's sad to see them go.
Of course, I know they will return next spring, but right now the first Tuesday in May is light-years off. But I'll hang on, watching the trees, the skies, and the earth as they announce the seasons, counting down the weeks.