When we first moved to Geneva, friends talked about shopping for their produce at the weekly farmers’ markets happening in Geneva or the neighbouring towns around Geneva for produce found at these markets is renowned for being locally grown and is often at its peak of freshness. I must say the concept of a farmers’ market sounded refreshingly interesting to me. It’s basically an indoor or outdoor market consisting of individual vendors - mostly farmers - who set up booths or stands to sell their produce, meat products, fruits and sometimes prepared foods and beverages.
In Singapore, we have a similar sort of market as well. Known as “wet markets”, a huge variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, flowers, dried goods and spices, clothes and even household items can be bought there. The term “wet markets” came about for the markets are literally doused with water continually to keep the facilities clean.
"Wet markets" in Singapore
I thought shopping for local produce to stock up on our weekly groceries at the farmers market here in Geneva should be a walk in the park for me since it shouldn’t be quite different from the shopping done in our wet markets. However, my couple of experiences of the farmers’ markets didn’t leave me an instant first impression. I’ve visited the Carouge market which had about ten or twelve stands. It was pretty small and the variety of produce available wasn’t that great. Then there was a bigger market in Rive, the downtown shopping area but I’ve often found the produce available there is overpriced.
A local farmers' market at Carouge
Undeterred by my first couple of experiences, I decided to ask around and found out that there was a bigger farmers’ market that’s opened on Sundays located at Divonne-les-Bains, a town in the Rhone-Alps, France. The idea that a market could remain opened on a Sunday excited me very much for in most parts of Switzerland, the grocery stores are shut. If we decide to stay in Geneva over the weekend, I usually have to plan ahead the dinner menus for the weekend. I bugged J and we were off to Divonne for some fresh produce that very day.
We got an early head-start for most of the farmers’ markets are fully operational from 9am. Getting to the markets early also meant that you are assured of the freshest produce. When we arrived at the farmers’ market in Divonne, we were greeted by throngs of people and there was a general buzz about the place which was so different from the ones that I had found in Geneva. Stalls stretched from the town’s centre and branched into the side streets; for once, I didn’t know where to start. But we remained cool and collected. Armed with our dinner menu in hand, we started to make our way into the crowds.
My eyes darted around the stalls. All the food looked so much healthier and twice as luscious compared to the produce that we could find in the supermarkets in Geneva. We walked on and we saw fresh farm eggs that are almost double the size of the ones back in Geneva. We grabbed a dozen of those for they would come in handy for baking. We walked further and started putting in our bags fresh vegetables that we could use for our stew.
J making friends with the wine-maker and enjoying the spoils of the day
For the first time, I experienced the warm French hospitality here at the farmers’ market in Divonne where stall-owners handed us complimentary tastings of ham and cheese, and attempted to chat with us in whatever little English they could muster. J got to chat with a winemaker and sampled some of the French wine that he made. We ended up with a couple of bottles of the wine purchased at for a fantastic deal thanks to the easy friendship that he had with the winemaker himself.
Before we knew it, our shopping bags were filled with the entire week’s lunches and dinners. I was pleased with what we scored. So we loaded the boot with the week’s marketing and headed back to the farmers’ market to purchase some freshly baked bread, a selection of hams and cheese, which made for a great light meal for lunch by the side-walk.
Packing up when the day is over
This shopping expedition to the farmers market at Divonne kind of reminded me of home, granted that I’m not able to get a hold of other fresh meats and seafood, but the experience felt pretty close.