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Some Life Lessons Only Come Organically This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Once a week I go to a local farmers market with my mom. A few blocks are lined with wooden booths, their tops covered in bright plastic. One sells roasted corn on the cob and baked potatoes, another sells bonsai plants, and yet another sells all kinds of tomatoes. You can get fresh fruits and vegetables of every variety, organic honey, cheeses, wines, and an amazing assortment of flowers. As you walk, the singing of an old Hispanic man fades into the softer coos of an Irish man singing "Dust in the Wind." People of every age and race buy, sell, eat and just enjoy the atmosphere.

As I catch the scent of a honey-beeswax candle, I think about the typical supermarket with its endless cold rows and stacks of name-brand foods with the latest annoying music playing between the indecipherable announcements on the intercom. No one wants to be there, and it shows in every weary face pushing squeaky shopping carts and dragging screaming children.

At the farmers' market, the children run to try the strawberries at the next booth. Parents laugh and smile, folks chat, the salespeople are jovial, and the whole atmosphere is wonderful and relaxed. But the contagious joy of the farmers' market is only partly due to the organic food.

When people leave the long aisles and blaring speakers of the supermarket, it can be a shock to discover the world under an endless sky, where breezes blow and people smile. The supermarket is housed within a cold, square shell lit with neon lights. The farmers' market is in the open, next to homes and tea shops on a street lined by shady oaks. The difference is obvious. No one would chose a white box over soft breezes and tall trees.

Then there are the workers. At the supermarket, the baggers are usually paid minimum wage to do something they couldn't possibly care about. At the farmers' market, those who bag your products are often the growers. They are the ones who make a living from your purchase and thus care about you and the product. Customers are there for quality, health and to support local growers. People get to taste as they go, and everything feels so much more natural than food that is bagged, canned, or under air-tight plastic.

People are meant to be together in the fresh air, enjoying each other's company, food and their surroundings. When we are all herded across linoleum and through security alarms, there is nothing natural or comforting. The supermarket is far from the only place that injures us through its impersonal shuffle. Everywhere we turn, we have chosen speed, convenience and price over what really matters: quality, happiness, the natural world, and those around us. The stifling bus, the stuffed classroom, the unbearable cubicle - these are all self-made prisons that take us away from the natural flow of people and life. The farmers' market not only provides an instant pick-me-up, it also creates a model for how much our surroundings can affect our attitude and outlook.

When we allow ourselves to thoughtlessly move with the herd as we drag our hooves through one barbed-wire restriction after another, we stifle our true selves. This is not the way things are meant to be. Step into the farmers' market, a park, or any place with sky and air, and suddenly things feel right. Suddenly, we see the goodness in others. This is the way we were intended to live.

The farmers' market is not the fastest way to shop, but you leave with so much more than fresh apples and good cheese. If we could only look for places around us that nurture this dying part of us, our love of freshness and kindness, we could all smile more. And maybe, just maybe, make it through the bus ride, the hours in the cubicle, or the inevitable shuffle through the supermarket with a lighter and happier heart.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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