Letters to the Editor

Farmers markets are beacons to revitalize blighted or underutilized areas

An open letter to the San Juan County Council:

This letter is to urge unanimous support in favor of the Farmers Market at 150 Nichols St.

In 1975, as a paid intern finishing high school, I found solace from Cambridge and 10-hour work days at Faneuil Hall Market in Boston. Rich aromas and food gave welcome respite from adequate fare at the Kensington Square YWCA. Not till 25 years after cutting piers and selecting slides from the Boston Aquarium for the Baltimore Aquarium model, did I learn James Rouse would not commit to redevelopment of the Inner Harbor until the city committed public funds for aquarium development.

During my engagement, while renovating a farmhouse in Ohio in 1988, we sought warmth and exuberance at Findlay Market in Cincinnati where urban, rural and suburban folk jostled in a friendly melee for seven kinds of bacon, German sausage, fresh produce and good food. Across the country, these markets served as beacons to revitalize blighted or underutilized areas. New consumers came downtown on a regular basis, and small business, the engine of American economic success, had a forum from which to sell.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan referred to “ethnic blobs” in NYC, which Robertson Davies later describes more elegantly as “villages” within the city of Toronto. In either case, both draw on Jane Jacobs whose minute observance and description of community and connections between people revolutionized design. Fostering day to day contact among all types of people may appear confused chaos; in her analysis, multiple contacts in multiple ways fuel vibrant social lives and vigorous, diverse economies.

It is the business of government to invest in infrastructure, especially during hard times. Front-end investment like education and health may not have specific dollar returns; most would agree money is better spent on schools than prisons. Today’s Democracy Now shows horrendous ill-health relating to unwise taxpayer subsidy of growing, processing and eating factory food. In contrast, wrap your tongue around garden-grown tomatoes, Sundstrom’s Saskatchewan Red Wheat flour in island baked bread or Bakery San Juan pizza with homemade mozzarella, local herbs, and labor.

Jobs generate a healthy economy. Good housing. Good schools. Quality of life. Providing a venue for local agriculture and products year-round is a niche not well-served. Jacob’s micro-connections ensure community as mortar bonds brick in sound structures.

Restoring Brickworks will revitalize and enrich Friday Harbor and by extension San Juan County, a ferry and short walk away. In combination with open space, recall the agora, Greece’s answer to commerce and democracy. Please, all, vote a resounding YES!

Gay Wilmerding
San Juan Island

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