Is this all they have? There were only a handful of vendors that morning, and the limited produce they carried was heavily-packaged and overpriced. After traveling half-way across the city, I was shocked to discover how small the farmers market was. I tried to act nonchalant, but deep down I was incredibly disappointed.
That Sunday morning, Hsinya and I visited the organic farmers market at Zhong Xin college. I was excited to see the city and taste some good food. Hsinya told me that the famers market was located in the heart of campus.
What better place, I thought,
for a social gathering and for delicious, wholesome food?
My first experience with an organic farmers market was in Irvine. Each Saturday morning, almost a thousand foodies showed up to enjoy a lively shopping experience accompanied by live folk music. Some were there to strike up conversations while munching on hot, toasted kettle corn. Others were there for the roasted almonds or freshly baked bread. On both aisles, vendors would hand out free samples of sweet peaches, apricots, and strawberries. It was here where I fell in love with dried dates and figs, and it was here where I first sampled fresh goat cheese mixed with chives and jalapenos.
Perhaps my expectations were too high when I arrived at Zhong Xin. I brought my camera that day, all too eager to blog about the fantastic experience I was anticipating. I never expected that at Zhong Xin, the vendors would outnumber the customers, and that some displays would even be empty.
I surveyed the entire market twice. They had a few batches of veggies, some Asian pears, and a few tiny bags of brown rice—little else. There was no meat, dairy, or legumes. Forget about the artisan-crafted bread and aged cheddar cheese; they hardly had any fruits. At Irvine, I could buy organic dragonfruit, but here, I couldn’t even find oranges. If I wanted to stick with a pure organic diet, I’d either have to scavenge other markets, or just suffer from malnutrition.
Their organics resembled gifts more than they did food. They were sold in tiny packages for display purposes. They sold gift tea leaves, but not soybeans. Sure, the food was technically pesticide free, but it probably wasn’t sustainable, and it definitely wasn’t affordable.
When I saw the organic coffee beans, shrink-wrapped in endless layers of plastic, I snapped at my wife.
This is just marketing gimmicks targeted at rich people.
Hsinya returned an irritated, resentful stare.
Buying organic was your idea, anyway. Don’t you blame me for this.
She was right. So I did what I could that day: I picked a few package-free veggies, mumbled some broken Chinese, packed the produce into my reusable bag, snapped a few photos, and headed home.
On the way back, I realized how ungrateful I had been for what I had in Irvine. Organic produce might have been slightly more expensive, but at least it was affordable and easy to find. Hopefully, it’ll be the same for Taichung someday, too.
It’s been tough buying organic while traveling, but I haven’t given up on organic just yet. Zhong Xin did have a few package-free veggies, so I might visit again in a few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve been shopping package-free produce from local, traditional farmers markets.