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Farm-to-Table: Oxford City Market

Photo courtesy of Oxford City Market
Photo courtesy of Oxford City Market

Supporting your community, helping the local economy and living a healthier lifestyle sounds like a lot of work, but it turns out all you need to do is eat. People in Oxford now have more options for buying produce locally at farmers markets or eating at restaurants that serve local produce.

“Fresh food that comes out of the ground this morning just tastes better than stuff that sat on a truck all week. So I would just tell people to give it a shot,” said Katie Morrison, director of the Oxford City Market.

Morrison said that this fall, for the first time, Oxford City Market will be open until Thanksgiving. The weekly farmer’s market sets up off of Jackson Ave. every Tuesday afternoon from 3 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The market hosts vendors that sell fresh seasonal produce, as well as items such as quail eggs, honey, shrimp and homemade lemonade. You can even order your Thanksgiving turkey.

In addition to the variety, Morrison said these foods are a bargain. “See how much you pay for it here. And the next time you go to Kroger or Walmart, see how much it is there. I guarantee you, you’re getting a better deal here than you are in the grocery store.”

Morrison said that one reason for the lower price is the market is tax-free.

“There is special legislation on the state-level and through the national USDA Farm Service Association. When farmers sell direct to the consumer at a farmers market, they do not have to pay sales tax on what they make at a farmer’s market.”

Morrison even has a plan for those needing alternative payments. She has created a system that allows you to charge any card and receive cash to use with vendors. Recently, this has included an EBT card reader that allows patrons who use food stamps to shop in the market as well.

The head chef at Oxford’s Ravine, Joel Miller, said “It’s better to keep our dollars in the community and support local economies and farmers. I’d rather give my money to them than to some corporate agribusiness that’s not even contributing to my well-being or the state’s.”

Miller and Morrison both admit that not all produce can be purchased locally all the time because of growing seasons and Oxford’s inability to grow certain items due to climate, but Miller says the local food movement is not a fad.

“They’ve been doing industrial agriculture for 60 plus years now, so it’s going to take a while to unwind that method, but I don’t think it’s a trend. I think it’s here to stay, if people make a conscious effort to make that switch.”

On a recent Tuesday, Oxford’s Mayor George “Pat” Patterson was browsing the farmer’s market.

“It’s not a big crowd right now because we’re in between seasons, but your neighbors are here. These people work hard,” said Patterson. “Oxford wants you to keep your money local. Keep everything local. It’s good for you and it’s good for the people.”

Morrison says the farmer’s market can be especially good for kids.

“I had one child come back and say, ‘I grew radishes!’ It helps to introduce kids to vegetables, to fruits, and I’ve had a lot of parents tell me ‘I could never get my child to eat such and such, and then we came out here and he put a raw turnip in his mouth and loved it.”’

She says the relationships built between farmers and customers is also part of what makes the market a success.

“All of our farmers have tons of recipes where they’d love for you to say, ‘How do you prepare bok choy? Or watermelon radishes? Or wasabi greens?’ And they’ll give you five different ways to eat it.”

Whether you’re buying on a budget, trying to spice up your menu for the week or just want to get out and do something different, eating local is an Oxford option.

–Story contributed by Meek School of Journalism and New Media student Carolyn Smith

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