An event on a bridge was enough of a draw for me. Add organic food and local artisans to the mix and I knew I had to attend the Farm To Neighbors Market on October 1st. The perfect blue-sky day was partially thanks to winds strong enough to peel up display cloths to reveal the legs of tables. Sellers had to scramble to tape them down. It wasn’t until around noon that the wind’s effect settled thanks to clustered bodies and their blocking effect. The turn-out was impressive.
I was surprised by the RMB 30 entrance fee, though. Presuming the sellers were paying to have a booth, wouldn’t this cover their costs like advertising and bridge rental, if they had to rent it at all? And since the point of a market is spending money to support local sellers, paying an entrance fee seems like a double dip from the public.
And this is the kind of market you’d want to save up for. Things aren’t cheap: the crafts especially. There were some absolutely gorgeous items like homemade children’s clothes, soaps, pottery, tea, jams and spreads, fresh vegetables and jewelry. This box lured my fingers to drag themselves along its surface and then I asked the price. They jumped off when I heard the answer: RMB 4800. Cough, thank you, act normal, keep walking.
I thoroughly enjoyed the vegetable pie, samosas and fresh juice I consumed, each at a minimum of RMB 20, but didn’t begrudge the Western prices. It’s all for the cause! I also had a few sunny conversations in both English and Chinese with likeminded, slowfood-supporting, buy-local advocating, environmentally-conscious people.
There should be a rule, though: All sellers should be tasked with never creating waste. Food could be offered in re-useable containers and consumed within their booth’s radius, just like the yogurt containers of Beijing hutongs. It wouldn’t take much!
Ember Swift is a Canadian musician and writer who has been living in Beijing since late 2008. She and her husband Guo Jian (国囝), who is also a musician, have a daughter called Echo (国如一) and a newborn son called Topaz.