The other day a van parked on my street. Two men got out, and one of them called to me, "Hey! You need some steaks? How 'bout some nice ribs? Can't get 'em any cheaper than this!" I might mention here that the van in question was not a clearly marked van of a local butcher or anything like that. It was just a regular, beat-up old van. In my neighborhood, this is the closest we get to "community produce." As it turns out, I did not buy steaks or ribs, but the whole scene got me thinking: it's about time for this city mouse to go country and enjoy summer's bounty. What better way to kick off a weekend than to take a road trip to Rice's Market, our neighboring county's oldest and largest farmer's market?!  

Armed with a wad of small bills and my best friend in tow, we drove far from the concrete jungle to the bucolic fields of Bucks County, PA (where M. Night Shyamalan films most of his movies, as point of reference!). Rice's has always been a "destination spot" since we were high school kids, but back then we were more interested in the stands selling hippie clothes, handmade soaps, and incense sticks. Now, our mission this time around was basically fresh food and, if funds provided, plants for some city gardening. 

What do you think a box of onions cost? One dollar! A pint of golden plums? Two dollars! Local corn? Three dollars for a dozen ears! I paid less for a small bag of tomatoes than I pay per pound for tomatoes in the grocery store. There was so much to feel good about: the food couldn't be any fresher, I was peeling off dollar bills instead of swiping plastic, and I was paying a farmer directly for his produce so that he gets the whole sale rather than the twenty-odd cents on the dollar he is paid by grocery chains (see this article for details). I really felt connected to my food. When you buy fresh, you eat fresh and that can be tricky for us city dwellers. I'm no cook, but that evening's tomato-cucumber-mozzarella salad was delightful! 

We couldn't help but visit the gardening and landscaping vendors. Again, all local folks. Plants are something I rarely indulge in mainly because I suffer from a "black thumb" and why spend money on things that are so temporary? I'd love to have a hanging basket on my porch during the sunny seasons but they sell for twenty bucks at my neighborhood Home Depot. That's just not in the budget. But at the farmer's market, those same baskets were four dollars each. Individual pots were three dollars each. Larger plants (like shrubs and grasses and landscape material) were twelve dollars each. Of course if you bought a few they would give you a discount. And we're not talking sickly, last-chance plants here. Everything was huge and healthy and vibrant. I was flabbergasted. For a total of fourteen dollars I completely redecorated my once sad and desolate porch!  

Folks, if you are lucky enough to have a farmer's market nearby, please do visit it soon and often. You'll eat better, you'll save a bunch of money, and best of all, you'll be supporting local farmers and growers. As the saying goes: Think global, act local! 

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Stacey Pavlick

Stacey is a participant in the CareOne Debt Management Plan, soon to complete her second year on the plan. She is also a contributing writer for the My Journey Out of Debt blog and Single & Settling In blog. She is currently an operations manager for a title insurance company and moonlights as a music reviewer for SpectrumCulture.com. She combines her passion for writing with her passion for getting out of debt to share her struggles and successes along the way. Compensated CareOne Blogger.