Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Market as teacher

How do people learn to want what's best for them? You would think that it's obvious, wouldn't you? That we should be able choose at the basic level what is wholesome, nourishing, enough, and sustainable. Instead you find that "what people want" is culture that starts from birth. It's coded in the symbols of communications technology, language and media, as much as in the means of the individual. Even the way to persuade a rational person of what's better can be an addicting process.

The challenge of the Green Market is to present healthy alternatives. It also wants people to think outside the box. This is much like the Anglican church, which is so liberal, so committed to self-thinking persons that the pews have become emptier. Maybe, like the church, the Market - fledgling effort for 52 Saturdays, and a few Sundays in 2013 -  can prosper for many years, and open a few minds before it's empty again; or changes its tactic.

Are we starting at the end of the lesson of choice? Are we attracting people who already know what's good and healthy in food. Perhaps that's all the market wants to do - to draw all the people across Trinidad (and Tobago) who are interested in homegrown, handmade and wholesome. Perhaps this audience is large enough; and can be estimated at what - say the graduates from primary schools across the country, a community of 20,000 a year.

Consumption patterns indicate that taste is developed by more than what we are taught academically. The culture of eating is learned in the home. It is learned on the street; it is an accretion of everyday circumstances, convenience, income and taste. Passing are the days of kids coming home from school  for lunch; or even having lunch kits with "cooked" food; or dining around a family table with mother's evening meal.

Remembrance of home: Deborah frying accras at the Green Market
When we were little and eating our parents' nutritious meals, we used to say that when we grew up, we would go to the movies every day, eat popcorn or salt prunes, and cotton candy and drink sweet drinks. This was an indicator of what was withheld and what was attractive to five-year-olds. We all went through phases of wanting to eat only fried chicken, only auntie's sponge cake, only store bought. More than a few have got stuck there; and the result is an epidemic of obesity.

The challenge for sources of food, especially when it has to be cultivated or collected for profit, are similar. When chicken rearing was industrialised in Trinidad, incentives and additives predominated. The industry was heavily subsidised. Fast grow out was guaranteed with a cocktail of vaccinations, vitamins and chemicals. Fast food over the counter was matched by fast turnover on the farms. It's the same for all cultivated meats - pork, beef, lamb - and green stuff, and fruits. Fortunately some foods - citrus fruit, goats, honey - are left to their natural growing cycles. In Trinidad and Tobago, these do include beef, goat and lamb.

New farmers: commercial aquaponic growers bring greens every week 


Wise consumers seek out what's wholesome from those producers who grow without (chemical) additives. Though they turned to fish for "wild" protein, the sea - which is the dumping ground from all continents - is now suspect as a source of food. Plus, it is estimated that we have eaten our way through 90% of the large sea species. What's left is either endangered or spoiled with toxic pollutants.

What is the future of a market that wants to sell what is natural, wholesome and sustainable? Producers are encouraged by demand. What will the natural, sustainable, wholesome food farm look like? Presumably, it will inter-crop: livestock such as chickens and ducks providing manure; composting nourishing healthy soils.

The market is set in a garden in Santa Cruz

It is the declared objective of the market to cultivate consumers who are inquisitive and aware of growing practices; discerning quality not in how vegetables look, but in smell and taste; respecting the seasonality of fruit, and appreciating diversity. The market takes on the role of teacher, for producers and consumers.

Fresh vegetables and fruit in season are available every Saturday: consumers and producers talk about what's coming up

We live in a complex world where new information is coming in all the time. Hopefully, we know what keeps us healthy; that we don't need plenty, just enough; that respect for soil and sun and rain is everything. And changing eating habits - like recycling - happens one person at a time. Follow on facebook here:  www.facebook.com/GreenMarketSantaCruz

View of the market: comfortable path to what's wholesome


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