Inch by inch, row by row, I’m gonna make this garden grow/ Gonna hoe it deep and low, gonna make this fertile ground/ Inch by inch, row by row, please bless these seeds I sow/ Please keep them safe below ‘til the rain comes tumbling down.
We sang this song sitting “criss-cross applesauce” in the Roaring Brook Elementary School gym at our monthly assemblies.
I can clearly remember our music teacher Mr. Dupont patiently teaching us the lyrics and hand motions to this classic Pete Seeger song. And we were taught well, because this is one of the earliest and fondest memories I have of growing up in Chappaqua.
Reflecting on my childhood now as a graduating high school senior, I find that it was these small moments (or “watermelon seeds” as we called them in second-grade English) that helped shape me into the person I am today. I am the result of dutiful nurturing by the many caring people that I have encountered over the years, and the lessons that they have imparted. However, there is group of people that has had the most impact of all: the community at the Chappaqua Farmers Market.
I have always loved learning about and experimenting with food and nature. On hot summer days, I can remember romping around the yard collecting ingredients for a stew “cooked” on my front porch. A mixture of uprooted dandelions, onion grass, baby pinecones, wild raspberries, rock salt, and cherry tomatoes “boiled” with an angled hand mirror transformed into hearty soup fit for only my younger brother’s (unwilling) consumption. Now, as a proud locavore and avid cook, I look back to this game as my early years of experimentation. Years later, in 2010, the Chappaqua Farmers Market first set up tents on the Bell Middle school lawn. One Saturday morning, my mother brought me to visit the market and I was instantly enchanted. The vibrant bounty of produce and prepared foods was magical, and the experience enhanced by the caring community atmosphere. I knew I needed to be part of it somehow, and in an initiative to get kids involved in market promotion to increase attendance of all ages, I was named Spokeskid of the market.
Every Saturday for the next three years, “Kid Foodie,” my on-camera personality, would interview a different vendor about their produce and process. Kathy the fishmonger let me taste a raw oyster, Demetra the olive oil woman taught me about optimal olive oil acidity levels, and Emily the cheese lady taught me about the the benefits of probiotic bacteria.
Suddenly, food was no longer confined to the edges of a plate–peanut butter, strawberry jelly, whole wheat bread–all the ingredients to my favorite lunch meal had a fascinating origin and a corresponding scientific explanation.
Along with the education I received from the Market, what I still enjoy most about coming to the Farmers Market are the people. After weeks of greeting the same faces, I am on a friendly first-name basis with almost all the farmers and vendors. We have nicknames for each other, we ask about each other’s families–those special relationships somehow make the fresh heirloom tomatoes taste all the more sweet.
And after a long and taxing school or work week, the Farmers Market is the place where everyone can relax, reconnect, and rebalance their lives. Neighbors can chat over lunch, families can play in the grass, and new friends can be made while waiting on line. The adage, “food brings people together,” really does ring true in our small town.
As I begin to transition into the next season of my life, I have learned not to be afraid to ask questions, to try new things, and, most importantly, to water and feed special relationships.
As ready as I am to move on and begin this new stage, I will miss Chappaqua for the kind teachers, mentors, friends, and peers that have helped me grow, inch-by-inch.