Editor’s note: This week, to tie together our previous issue theme of My Economy with the upcoming theme on Sharing Food, we’re publishing a five-part series featuring vendors from the Goshen (Indiana) Farmers Market. Photographs are by Deborah Haak and words are by Elisabeth Wenger.
Ben Hartman farms Clay Bottom Farm just outside of Goshen, Indiana. When he and his wife Rachel bought their land, there was some lawn and an old clay tennis court, which they tilled in and started farming. They farm their half acre as efficiently as they can, and supply a CSA and several restaurants, as well as going to the Goshen Farmers Market twice weekly. With all of those other outlets for selling their produce—outlets that are more predictable, that order in advance, and that are set up in such a way to ensure the farmers get paid for all the work they do—what keeps Ben coming back to the farmers market, where farmers are guaranteed nothing, and are only paid for most of their work?
“My favorite quote of all time,” says Ben, “is from Wendell Berry: ‘The farmer lives and works at the intersection of nature and the human economy.’” The farmers market is exactly that intersection of nature and human economy, where farmers get to meet the people who eat the food they grow, get to talk to them about it, swap recipes and stories as well as cash. The farmer is in nature most of the time, working with the sun and rain and soil, the wildlife and weeds, and they bring that sensibility to the market with them, where those who don’t make their livings outside can hear about it, see and taste the produce, and enter into the essential economic exchange where fair prices are paid to the farmers who rely on that human economy just as much as they rely on human culture.