Finding Nature in the City

A visit to a farmers’ market can fill more than your reusable bag. It can fill your heart, too.

Growing up in Tennessee, I was always outside. Whether I was hiking or camping, collecting rocks, investigating bugs with my dad, or simply playing in the dirt, I felt most at ease in nature when I was a kid. I never imagined I’d end up living in Brooklyn, where instead of birds I hear sirens, and instead of honeysuckle I smell garbage.

Of course, there is a lot to love about living in the city—the unique work opportunities, the feeling of adventure, and the great public transportation, to name a few. But at heart, I’m still that outdoorsy girl, so I look for nature wherever I can find it here in the city, whether it’s by taking a walk to the waterfront or volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center. My favorite way to connect with nature, though, is visiting my local farmer's market.

Vegetables from the Farmer's Market
Photo credit: Renee Peters

Last week when I went, I found beautiful heirloom tomatoes, intertwined scapes, and summer squash of all different shapes and sizes. My favorite organic farmer searched under the counter and found one last bunch of cilantro for me, which was a relief, since I was planning on making summer tacos later that night, and what’s a taco without cilantro?

Seeing dirt on the roots of carrots and the rainbow of vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables brought me back to my childhood. I felt more connected to nature and the seasons—and to my community. I’m not the only one who feels that way. One of the farmers I chatted with during my visit last week said, “Market days are some of my favorites because I get to see first-hand how my family’s hard work brings joy to people’s lives.”

Vegetables from the farmer's market
Photo credit: Renee Peters

It’s also nice to know that shopping at farmers’ markets is good for the planet. Locally sourced produce travels fewer miles than much of what you find in grocery stores, and many small farmers employ healthy soil practices, which help sequester carbon.

I can't always find everything I need locally, of course. When I can’t, I make sure to choose Rainforest Alliance Certified™. The summer tacos I’d be making just wouldn't have been complete without avocado, for instance. But when an avocado—or any product—bears the Rainforest Alliance’s little green frog seal, you can rest assured that it’s cultivated in ways that protect soils, forests, and waterways, and improves farmer livelihoods.

Summer taco
Photo credit: Renee Peters

As one of my favorite writers, Michael Pollan, says, “Our most profound engagement with the world happens on our plates. When we eat, we’re taking nature, the world, into our bodies… and we are changed.” When I sit before a meal I’ve made from local and certified ingredients, I feel the truth of Pollan’s words. I feel a little less far from home, and closer to the land. And most of all, my life feels easy—even right here in New York City.

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