Never mind that farmers next door grew the best tomatoes and beans, that shellfishermen hauled the freshest oysters and clams. Grocers used to think they knew better.
With preservatives, they could truck their produce from many states away and still save pennies on the pound. Flavor might be a bit flat, color slightly off, but the price was right.
It was only when customers demanded better that things changed. Lately, these towns are blessed with groceries whose shelves brim with local fruits and vegetables, farm stands where produce arrives by tractor moments after picking, and farmers’ markets like that at Mount Hope Farm (Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., outside from June to October; inside during the winter).
Nearby, we also have the the Aquidneck Growers’ summer market at Aquidneck Vineyard in Middletown (Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) or its indoor winter market at St. Mary’s Church in Portsmouth, the Sandywoods Farm market in Tiverton (Thursdays from 4-7 p.m.) and the newest arrival, at Westport Town Farm Saturday mornings. It’s fitting that this former “poor farm” that once housed and fed the town’s down-and-out, should again be a place where farmers share their bounty.
Part of the fun of such markets is that customers never quite know what they’ll find.
A recent market, for instance, included alpacas, some of whom were shorn of their soft wool right on the spot.
There are veggies, of course, jellies and jams, fresh-picked flowers, oysters from the Sakonnet River, soaps, baked goods and more. Later will come fruit, tomatoes, corn, peppers, squash …
An outdoor farmers market, like summer itself, is a fleeting treat, of course, so all the more worth savoring.