The quality and abundance of produce here is staggering. The first time we went to the neighborhood farmers market here was eye-opening. So much grows here, and availability of certain fruits or veggies depends less on following the seasons than it did back east. In DC, we shopped much more seasonally: the market only ran from May to November, and what you could purchase was highly dependent on what was available that time of year. At the Goleta farmers market, I found not only peaches, berries, tomatoes, kale, squash, meats, and dairy, but local dates, figs, nuts, and honey, as well as many, many vegetables I couldn’t identify.
Did you know there are many varieties of avocado? I had no idea. The flavor varies: some are nuttier than others, some grow much larger, some are rounder while others are more pear-shaped. One of the many avocado vendors this morning gave me three free avocados when I paid for mine. That’s something you wouldn’t get at the supermarket.
It never registered in my mind that in Washington, DC, it’s just not as easy to get fresh, local produce without going out of your way. The produce stocked at the supermarket is shipped in from hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. The farms represented at the DC farmers markets came from further away than you’d expect, too. The Washington, DC metropolitan area is growing too urban for farms – look at how much Loudoun County, an exburb of DC located about 40 miles from downtown, has shifted from its historic roots as a farming community – so they’re located further out in the rural parts of Maryland, Virginia, or Pennsylvania. And produce is much more expensive in DC. In Goleta, many of the farmers market vendors are from within Santa Barbara County, and at least one of them (Fairview Gardens) only has to drive their produce two miles to bring it to market. Most of the farms are right in Goleta or Santa Barbara. You can get fifty-cent avocados or a huge bunch of kale for a dollar at the regular supermarket. We’ve been eating well.
But that’s an inevitable difference between being located right in the middle of a huge agricultural area versus being on a more built-up coast. Besides the people, whom I miss above all, there are other things I prefer about DC living:
- The abundance of Asian supermarkets in the suburbs. We have small Asian markets in Goleta and Santa Barbara, but they’re overpriced.
- Our favorite Ethiopian takeout place, Zenebech Injera in Shaw. Washington, DC has the largest concentration of Ethiopians in the U.S. and Ethiopian food is some of the best affordable cuisine around.
- All the neighborhoods in DC – and parts of Arlington – are only a few miles away. Things are much less dense here, and it seems like a lot of the places we go to are in suburban-style shopping centers. Going through busy parking lots on a bike is the worst.
I’ll surely miss the crisp autumn weather that should be approaching DC soon. Even the winter holds fond memories of getting bundled up to ride to work in the dark, with only my thoughts and a bright beam of light leading the way, and the sudden comfort of leaving the outside freeze and entering a heated building. Everyone here tells me I won’t miss winter. I think it’ll depend on reading the more subtle cues that mark the passage of seasons here.