This morning, for the first time in a long time, I went to the permanent, year-round farmers market here. It’s an old one, been around for well over 200 years. I love going to this market. To me, this is the way we should be shopping rather than in sterile supermarkets.
The Soulard Farmers Market, just south of downtown St. Louis, is open four days a week with a wide range of vendors from produce and small farmers to flea market and surplus goods to fresh bakeries and butchers. They even have a pet shop, a florist and several other small businesses. It is shaped like an ‘H’ with a central building acting as the crossbar. All of the four legs are covered, but only the two on the South side are enclosed, and those only halfway along their length. The vendors in the other sections either shut down during the slow winter season or hang tarps behind them to keep some of the wind at bay.
Since it had been a long time since I was there last, many things had changed, although many of the long-time occupants were still there. This included my favorite incense vendor, who makes his own as well as importing authentic Old World varieties from across Asia from the Middle East to Southern China. There were many new vendors, including a new bakery and a small café. The florist, which had been in one of the enclosed legs was now where an Amish market and butcher had been. Many vendors had been in that spot. I did not see any of the Amish from Southern Illinois who were very common when I was last there. Another favorite shop, the spice shop, was still there and still quite busy as it always is. And the poultry farm vendor had racks of live chickens, clucking and crowing, making the place have a real old-time marketplace feel.
Peppers, potatoes and onions dominated the small farmers’ stands, as it is their season. There was also quite a bit of garlic on display. In addition to produce, you can buy homemade soaps and beauty products, organic teas and homemade pasta, sunglasses and sports jerseys, fresh baked bread and hot-off-the-fryer mini-donuts. There were stands of lucky bamboo, surplus bread and coffee cakes, as well as several cheese vendors including one with homemade goat cheese.
Can you tell how much I enjoy this place? I could do without all the tourists. But the clucking chickens and hawking barkers and the wonderful (and some awful) smells make me feel like I’m really a part of the world, with all its noise and dirt and character. If you have such a place near where you live, I urge you to go there and feel the real way market shopping should be.