Farm to Table: A Winkler-Morden Reality
For them the day began around 5:30 am, with a shrill alarm and a grappling into darkness. There are jeans and boots, worn t-shirts thrown on, and cups of coffee guzzled. When they step outside, the birds are beginning to chirp, and they can already see a soon-to-be hot sun forcing the sky upward in the distance.
They work on their knees or crouching, pulling, clearing, wiping, digging; their nails soon packed and dyed the colour of Earth. They gather their harvest into buckets as the first prickles of sweat begin to bead around their hairlines. They try to be done before noon when the unforgiving sun takes its toll, burns their bodies.
Even so, there’s still cleaning, packaging, packing. By 2 pm they drive into town, set up, prepare for the day; exhaustion trying, but failing to find a home in them.
When I hear the phrase ‘farm-to-table,’ I think of cities, which I admit is ironic. I think of high-end restaurants serving sous vide, charred vegetables, herbed-crusted barely-butchered meats. I think of plates decorated beautifully and guests chattering on, mentioning words like ‘fresh,’ and ‘local.’
What I forget about, and I think most would agree, is the farm part of farm-to-table. The people who wake up in the morning, and harvest the purples and greens, the yellows and reds of the fruits and vegetables that decorate our plates.
So now I’m here, and I’m looking at those people whose alarms went off at 5:30. They are standing, some with their children or wives, parents, aunts or uncles, on one side of the table while I stand on the other. What separates us are piles of purple beans, green zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, red skin potatoes. There are arts and crafts: hours of weaving or sewing or creating. There is a glass bee-house filled with worker bees, buzzing around their home, samples of honey in front. There are pastries, just-baked bread, fruit popsicles, and fresh pierogies, still steaming
Food tastes different when it’s fresh. There is nothing like a tomato, plucked straight from the vine, or a carrot with bits of dirt still clinging to it. They taste the way it feels it put your glasses on in the morning; when the blurry edges of your surroundings become clear. That is what August tastes like in Winkler and Morden. The sellers here did not buy their produce wholesale from grocery stores, they did not buy from large farms. The vendors here grew this produce, often without chemicals, in their backyards and with their own hands within 20 kilometers of where we are standing. Earlier in the season, their strawberries were so fresh they never saw a cooler. Farm, to table (to your plate if you can get them before they sell out).
Forget peeling off barcodes, stickers, labels, from other provinces, countries. Forget scrubbing off wax coatings. Come to Winkler and Morden to meet the people who worked the land and grew the food that makes ‘farm-to-table,’ a reality.
Winkler’s Market runs 4-6pm every Tuesday through October 2nd. For more information, visit their Facebook.
Morden’s Farmers’ Market is 4-6pm every Thursday through the end of the season. For information, visit their facebook, or the Morden Chamber of Commerce Site