Farmers’ markets are all the rage in the US these days as more and more people learn that it’s often worth paying a bit extra to get fresh, high quality produce, meat, and fish from local producers. But the farmers’ markets of Greece are not just a place where urban hipsters go to get the best grass-fed beef or exotic Asian vegetables. Rather, they are a humble institution that has traditionally been considered the place to go for the lowest prices–cheaper than the modern supermarkets that sprung up a generation or so ago. The markets are called “laiki,” or “the people’s markets.”
The weekly trip to the market is one of Helena’s mom’s favorite outings. Even in winter there is an abundance of fresh produce including vast mounds of a citrus fruits that are produced in a second winter crop. The markets are not “local only”–some of the vendors are local folks with small farms, others are middlemen, who bring produce from farther afield.
Like everyone else in Greece, the vendors are politically active–soon after we arrived in Greece we found that the laiki vendors were on strike. No farmers’ market for a couple weeks. Something to do with protesting a new law in the Parliament regulating the markets. The laiki vendors told us that they felt the government favored the big supermarkets over them, so they were going on strike to push for more favorable treatment.