What does it mean to have a “healthy community”? I am encouraged to see more and more people actively consider their life choices, their environment, associations and just put more thought in general to how they spend their time, energy, and money. This feels like a dramatic shift from, say, ten years ago. However, embedded in some of the most high profile public improvement related pursuits in the modern era is an unfortunate residual strand of laziness. After all, we do want something for nothing.
This often manifests itself in buzz phrases that people use to not-so subtly indicate some form of association with a popular present-day initiative. Perhaps the one that bugs me the most is the term “sustainability”. In many of its common present-day uses, the definition of this term “sustainability” has been narrowed to only mean sustainability in the environmental sense, short-changing the term of its full definition, and shortchanging discussions of “sustainability” of their full impact.
Whenever I ride a bicycle to a Farmer’s Market, I feel as if I suddenly become the personification of the term “healthy community”. It’s the standard image, embedded in every montage that any health or parks department has put together to promote some kind of health/ community initiative in the past six years. People riding their bikes to buy pesticide-free produce and meat products from local farmers and ranchers.
And there are a few booths that sell those products, including one with that cow diagram that just always confuses me. Why are there like 50 types of beef?. However, most of the booths at this Farmer’s Market are not vendors selling food. In fact, I saw a somewhat random assortment of products that made me curious as to how one goes about determining what is appropriate for a Farmer’s Market.
And, as is the case with any other Farmer’s Market I have been to, there were plenty of booths where one can get food that is, well, not healthy.
In Wisconsin, any Farmer’s Market I would attend would have a good number of booths selling cheese curds. If the country ever breaks up into its 50 states, and Wisconsin becomes its own country, it would probably stock pile cheese as a strategic reserve, much the same way Canada stock piles maple syrup.
I would say a majority of the food vendors at this Farmer’s Market offer food that is not typically considered healthy; including many different varieties of baked goods, food trucks, and a bunch of stands that sell items like tamales and burritos.
Interestingly, several booths at this Farmer’s Market are operated by Local civic organizations advising residents on how to effectively garden and compost. This gives this Farmer’s Market somewhat of a unique touch, that contributes to the health and sustainability of the community in a different way.
But, the same way being a successful person is about more than simply becoming “goal oriented”, eating well is about more than just buying things that are “organic”, and having a productive work team is about more than just “synergy”, having a healthy community is not just about initiatives like this. There are a lot of other factors, culturally, near and far, that make this place what it is.
Regardless of what we are trying to achieve, it takes time, effort and active participation. We all want something for nothing. We want to be able to claim some sort of accomplishment, moral validation, status or belonging by claiming association with some positively viewed buzzword, and maybe taking part in a token activity like going to a Farmer’s Market. But, to really live healthy takes a much bigger commitment. And there is more to having a “healthy community” than a video montage showing people like me bicycling to Farmer’s Markets.
What we do every day can be healthy, or it can be not. For most of us, it is both, depending on the situation. The intellectual rigor we need to truly evaluate our lives, the journey we are on and the communities we live in, involves respecting the complexity that is ourselves, our surroundings, and even places with divergent outcomes like the Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market. It is at that point, with the understanding of places, activities and concepts beyond buzzwords and vague terms, we complete this transition, elevating our level of intellectual discourse and giving ourselves the tools we need to make the best of our lives and communities.