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Community spirit

Lifestyle | The growing popularity of farmers markets has to do with food, and much more

Issue: "De-coding Morsi," July 28, 2012

"Try this chocolate linguini, it's great with vanilla ice cream," offers Molly Sharp, a 20-something pasta seller at Seattle's 105-year-old Pike Place Market. The market, which stretches over nine acres close to Seattle's waterfront, attracts more than 10 million visitors each year. Its popularity is part of a nationwide trend, with the number of farmers markets increasing by 17 percent from 2010 to 2011.

The reason seems clear: Customers shop for locally grown and produced items, but they particularly appreciate a sense of community. Pike Place pasta seller Sharp has loved the market for as long as she can remember. In the third grade, she recalls, she sauntered among the vendors in floral leggings and a pink cloth beret, making her lunches out of free samples. Even before she started working as a vendor, Sharp said she never felt alone: "I always came here to be with people."

When Seattle city councilman Thomas Revelle proposed opening Pike Place Market in 1906, he said customers would "meet the producer" directly. Three years later, Sosio Manzo got off a boat from Sicily and began farming in Burien, a small town 10 miles south of Seattle. His grandson, Mario Manzo, has been selling the family's produce in the market since 1965. In those days the market was closed on Sundays, so on Saturdays Manzo bargained to get rid of produce that would spoil by Monday: "That's when the families with five or six kids came."

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Thomas Ochoa has been a fishmonger in Pike Place Market for three years. He knows his customers by name and can predict whether they will select freshly caught cod or 3-inch shrimp. Ochoa's relationships extend beyond selling seafood: One customer took Ochoa and his co-workers to a vacation ranch in western Washington. Ochoa helps another customer with her gardening.

A small crowd forms around two buskers playing folk music on the corner near the original Starbucks. A fruit seller expounds on the superior quality of his apricots. A bearded fishmonger celebrates a sale by throwing the decapitated salmon over the head of a buyer to his "catcher" for packaging-the market's famous "flying fish." ATMs and self-check lines offer speed but not human contact.

All of this interaction occurs as the smell of freshly baked bread and lavender soap blends with the fragrance from row after row of colorful cut flowers. Open jars of blackberry honey, pumpkin butter, and raspberry jam invite sampling. Customers find Russian piroshkis, taro root, and aged Italian cheeses, popular at Pike Place decades before they were trendy at Whole Foods.

Vendors at the market know that communication is good for business. Customers buy from those they know and like, says Rosy Primeri, who works for Manzo. Just then her boss raises an eyebrow and nods toward a girl in her early 20s: "Do you see Lizzy the Lizard?" He directs her gaze to a green plastic lizard that appears to be devouring his green beans. The customer laughs and they begin chatting.

Former homeless man Josh Mosley found his roots in the market in 2011. After five years of living on the streets, Mosley started working for a dried fruit vendor. "If you don't like this dried pineapple, you can punch me in the face," he teases two hipster college students. His co-worker rolls her eyes and continues chatting with another customer. The college kids chuckle. So far no one has punched him.

-Kira Clark is a WORLD intern

Prison peek

Whitehotpix/Zuma Press/Newscom

Margaret Cosh, 15 years old and with no previous convictions, served two months of hard labor in the Newcastle (England) City Gaol for stealing a coat. Her picture, and pictures of other convicted criminals in Newcastle from 1871 to 1873, are available on Flickr. The sepia-toned photos show faces, clothes, and hair-styles of poor English people: http://www.flickr.com/photos/twm_news/sets.- Susan Olasky

Millions of neighbors

Bettmann/Corbis/AP

In 1984, Fred McFeely Rogers donated one of his zip-front cardigan sweaters to the Smithsonian Institute. A recent blog post at the Smithsonian website reminds readers that his mother Nancy knit the sweaters-and four of them (red, green, purple, blue) appear in the new Mr. Rogers video remix, "Garden of Your Mind," produced by PBS Digital. More than 5 million people have watched it on YouTube.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was a remarkably quiet and calm contrast to the shows with frenetic movement that have come to dominate television for kids. The Smithsonian notes that for more than three decades Mr. Rogers began each episode of his PBS show by "entering his house from some invisible outside world and singing 'Won't you be my neighbor?' as he took off his sport coat, hung it up in his hall closet, and reached back in for one of his many trademark cardigans, zipping it up, and then sitting down to swap out his classic oxfords for sneakers, singing all the while." - Susan Olasky

Trade wares

NARA National Research Institute/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

Agence France Press reported that glass beads made in the Roman Empire between the first and fourth century A.D. were found in a fifth-century Japanese tomb near Kyoto. The government-funded Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties analyzed three 5 mm beads and discovered a chemical, natron, used in the Roman glass process. The beads, which had gold leaf between layers of glass, offer clues about early trade between the Mediterranean and Japan, 6,000 miles away. Could Christian teachings have traveled along with beads and other material goods? (See "Japan: Buddhism and Christianity," WORLD, June 14, 2003.) - Susan Olasky

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