Sometimes America rediscovers the past. We recognize the value of customs we have cast off. The comeback of farmers’ markets is an example. While big box stores dominate food retailing and technology isolates us, Americans are rediscovering the value and joy of the farmer’s market.

We live in farmers’ markets territory. Astoria, Cannon Beach and Ilwaco, Wash., have them. Astoria has two, on Sunday and Thursday.

We are not alone. Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a directory of markets. The graph at right depicts phenomenal growth over 18 years.

Reporting on the most recent USDA directory, our sister newspaper, the Capital Press, notes an important phenomenon. Jen O’Brien of the Farmers Market Coalition said: that people who shop at farmers’ markets have 15 to 20 social interactions per visit, while they would only have one or two at a grocery store.

In addition to that psychological benefit, farmers’ market shoppers know where their food comes from, because in most cases they buy it from the grower. In an era of occasional food scares, that is reassuring.

Farmers’ markets are also good for the communities that house them. Astoria is the poster child of that benefit. Since the Astoria Sunday Market was begun in 2000, downtown and its stores has gained new life. New businesses such as Blue Scorcher and the Himani Authentic Indian Cuisine did their trial runs at the Sunday Market.

Shakespeare wrote, “What’s past is prologue.” In this case, the past is also our future.

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