Fresh & Local
Like-Minded People
Column #14, Published Dec 23rd, 2011

I originally planned that this week’s column would discuss case law of federal jurisdiction in regulating intra-state businesses. Then I looked at the calendar and realized that this will be published two days before Christmas. I decided that there was another subject that would be more fitting, and the case law can wait.

Readers of this column know that many times I have quoted from a book by Po Bronson titled “What Should I Do with My Life?” Bronson says, “I can’t emphasize enough the sway of being in a community of like-minded people.”

Bronson and several other aspiring writers rented some inexpensive office space, and named it the Writers’ Grotto. They came in to their “office” every day to write, help and encourage each other. Bronson concluded, “The beauty of the Grotto is, when I have a bad day, at least I went to the office. A bad day working at home is a sad and lonely thing, and if a few bad days land in a row then an editing job starts to sound pretty appealing.”

He went on to say, “ the hardest thing was not learning to write; the hardest thing was to never give up.” Hence, the importance of hanging around like-minded people.

John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island.” Of course, what he meant was, “No man should be an island.”

I have talked previously about farmers’ markets and their obvious role as a distribution channel for locally grown food. But farmers’ markets often serve another far less obvious role.

Produce farming is common and even predominates in areas like the Northern Neck of Virginia. But around here in the Culpeper area, traditional grain and beef farming predominates. Locally grown food may be here to stay, but the number of us making a living from it is still relatively small. It is therefore possible sometimes to feel varying degrees of isolation.

So at farmers’ markets, like the one here in Culpeper, the vendors often become friends. That is the opposite of what you might expect since the vendors are competitors. But the vendors actually have a lot in common, and face many of the same issues and concerns. As Bronson says, “I can’t emphasize enough the sway of being in a community of like-minded people.”

But it goes farther than that. In the last year or two, there are increasing numbers of people who come to the Culpeper Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings to shop and then hang out for a while. Once again, at first that might seem odd. But for someone with an interest in locally grown food, what better place is there to hang out?

So a farmers’ market is not simply a distribution channel. There is more to it than that. It is an important community of like-minded people sharing an interest in locally grown food.

No man is an island.

Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at