In my hometown of Brunswick, Maine, for the weekend, I ventured mid-morning yesterday to the farmers' market with my mother. We parked lazily alongside a Maine Street curb, and walked baskets in hand to where twenty odd vendors lined a quarter mile strip of downtown grass.
In theory, it was just like a Cape market. Farmers sold blueberries and summer squash and honey and baked goods. Buyers asked about pesticide use on corn, and how long the supply of heirloom tomatoes were likely to last.
But in scale, it was much different. For starters, no one was lining up at seven a.m. to make sure that they got a box of blackberries. There was no rush to a particular vendor, no worry that perhaps there wasn't quite enough greenery to go around. These farmers were here twice a week, rain or shine, for most of the day—long enough and with deep enough reserves to allow for a more relaxed shopping experience.
The prices were lower, too. A one-gallon mason jar of honey cost $22; in Hyannis at the mid-Cape market, a quart goes for $21. High bush blueberries were at $4 a pint, down from $6 in Provincetown. Heirloom tomatoes went for $4 a pound, a far cry from the $5.75 they'll cost you at most Cape markets.
It's not surprising when you think about the land differences. Of course locally grown food costs more and is less plentiful on our sandy peninsula; we lack space, the soil, and the real estate prices to make farming for a living a more affordable endeavor.
Still, the Brunswick market lead me to envision a day when each Cape town might have its own market, held not just one morning but two, with plenty of food and enough reserves to feed whatever hungry shoppers might happen by. Many sellers I've interviewed recently started within the last few years, a trend that, if it continues, might mean such a possibility is not so far away.