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Farmer’s Markets: A Gathering Place for Community Seniors

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 26 August 2010

One of my favorite things about living near Amish Country is the abundance of farmer’s markets in a 30 mile radius.  My husband and I try to buy the majority of our goods at the market, going only to grocery stores for things like orange juice and toilet paper.

There are a number of reasons we enjoy stocking our kitchen via the farmer’s market. The food is fresher and more affordable, we can shop at a leisurely pace and hardly ever wait in line, we’re supporting local farmers and small businesses, and when recalls dominate the headlines, we don’t have much to worry about. We’ve developed relationships with many of the vendors, sometimes stopping by their stands just to say hello even if we don’t intend to buy that day. It’s also a great place to bring our out-of-town family and friends. In fact, when my parents come to visit, it’s usually the first thing my Dad asks upon arrival: “Can we go to the market?”

A strong sense of community pervades the market. Besides befriending vendors, there are a number of regular attendees that we greet there. I always have my eye out for the seniors. Many of the mature market shoppers come dressed to the nines with a straw basket on their arm or a small metal shopping cart trailing behind them, which is clearly something they’ve done for decades.

Most of the senior shoppers arrive alone, even shop alone, but eventually, they bump into someone they’ve known for years, or maybe even someone whom they have befriended at the market. In downtown York, an old piano positioned in the middle of the market is available for anyone who wishes to tickle the ivories. Like clockwork, two older gentlemen can be spotted (and heard) on Thursday mornings, one plays as the other sings. I’ve sat there several times, enjoying the wide range of music they share, from old hymns to “My Funny Valentine” – each set is interjected with humorous comments and ready smiles for anyone who stops to listen.

One of our favorite market employees works at both the butcher counter and produce stand.  *Alice is probably about 80 years old, and she recently told me she was practically raised at the market. Her mother died while she and her siblings were very young, so they went to live with their grandmother, who worked at the market. *Alice fondly remembers spending many days there in her growing up years.

At another favorite stand, *Dan brings his father, who is in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s, to work with him on Thursdays. His father ran the stand (and the family farm) for many years until his memory problems worsened, which is when *Dan stepped up and stepped into the role in a greater capacity. While it is challenging for Dan to keep up with customers on Thursdays, many people come to the stand to see his father, a familiar face in the market crowd, and I know it’s great for his dad to be there, in a familiar setting, greeting friends and making change as much as he is able.

To find farmer’s markets close to you, visit www.localharvest.org.

*Names changed to protect privacy.

Your Turn: Where do community seniors congregate in your hometown?

-Michelle Seitzer

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