Your Local Farmers Market Has So Much More Than Food

You'll Find More Than Food At Your Local Farmers Market, You'll Make Some Of Your Best Memories, Too

It's not just for some overpriced tomatoes.

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Back in my hometown, I had a reputation among friends of always going for the smaller brand. They teased (much to my happiness, actually) me about being "all natural," or always "organic." They knew that sometimes waking up at noon after a Friday night sleepover, I would probably have been gone for a couple hours already.

It was because Saturdays are when the farmers markets are held.

Living in Nashville, Tennessee, I have the perfect balance of urban and rural life, not to mention an amazing music scene. Off the top of my head, I could name five or six weekly markets all around where I live, yet my favorite remains to be the smaller Franklin Farmers Market.

Franklin itself might be the most beautiful little town in the south, not to mention the country. It's filled with history, incredible food, adorable boutiques, and surrounded by some of the most gorgeous pieces of farmland you'll ever stumble upon.

But at the heart of this little land of history, underneath the roof of a revived, rustic factory, little booths begin to pop up in the barely-risen sunlight. Farmers, artisans, and people with passions come from counties all over hours before dawn every week, just to share what they have sown: a woman with a beautiful little lavender farm, a smiling man who may have stumbled upon the best cheese recipe ever created, an Amish family with the best chocolate milk in the whole world and dozens of others.

I make a day out of it with whoever I can drag out of bed on a Saturday morning, that person usually being my mother. It only takes 20 minutes or so to walk past every booth, if you're going at a slow pace. But it takes my mom and me around an hour to go all the way around. Each vendor knows me by my face after going for as long as I have and I make a point to talk to each and every one of my favorite booths, and every new one I see popping up on the scene.

There have been a few special booths that have caught my attention recently. One of the biggest booths, a man who builds frames and creates beautiful artwork on display in a trailer, had two little tiny tables set up beside it. The man was going on with his business as usual and I stepped toward the little children tables and peered down at what they had on display.

I saw little tiny blankets and pillows sewn roughly into shapes and buckets of "organic slime" with all sorts of different scents. The little girl behind the table immediately had me sold as soon as she started talking. She had made "dolly blankets and pillows" that your dolls were sure to love. The little boy went off about his awesome cool sticky slime, and some even had little beads in it for texture!

They were so excited, and my mom and I could not stop smiling. The man, who I learned was their father, walked over and started talking to us. They had been so excited by what their dad did that they wanted to sell what they loved to make too so that they could make themselves happy while they made other people happy, "just like Dad!".

When the two were distracted, the man thanked us for listening so kindly to them, and to assure us that we shouldn't feel obligated to buy their products. My mother and I could not stop beaming and bought one set of dolly bedding and one bucket of slime. The children weren't as excited about receiving the money as they were that they saw us walking away with their little works of art and love, the labels on them scribbled in crayon.

There was another elderly couple there who had the most beautiful wooden carvings and stunning plants who I have talked to for a collective amount of hours the past year. They told me they woke up at 4 a.m. every Saturday to drive here from their town three counties over. They had the kindest souls I've ever met and have offered me a couple of internships. They told me that they couldn't afford to pay me in money, but could give me any of the plants I desired. They were both highly educated, and experts in multiple fields and any knowledge they could have taught me would have been priceless, and had I not been headed to college this year, I would have taken them up on their offer.

The honey couple. The Air-Force veteran and his wife, who sell their fantastic honey and bee pollen.

The mother of four who has children at my high school, who makes homemade salves, tea, and tinctures that have spared me from sickness and soreness too many times to count. Who beamed when I knew what Calendula flower was.

The goat cheese lady.

The fresh-pasta people.

The bone-broth man.

The woman who makes jewelry out of old guitar strings.

The man who makes soap.

The custom sign making man.

Every time I see these people and everyone else at the farmers market, there is nothing but joy on all of our faces.

My mother and I probably spend an outrageous amount of money for the gifts we buy there for what we could find at Publix or on Amazon, but we do not regret it one bit. Nine dollars for a huge loaf of bread that I could find for two at Costco? A lot of people would scoff at that. But why it is so much better is that I am not spending nine dollars for just a loaf of bread. That money is going back to the passion that brought that baker, that farmer or that stay-at-home mom to the market in the first place. That money is going to the rainy day fund of the older couple that is saving for the expensive plane tickets back to their hometown for their 50th high school reunion.

That money isn't paying for some CEO's fourth vacation home. It's paying for a daughter to go to dance lessons. It's paying for that little boy's boy scout trip. It's giving back to the community that I love to see every Saturday morning. It's giving more, for happiness above everything.

Go to your local farmers market, open your eyes and your hearts, and feel, not just see, what I mean.

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20 Of The Coolest Animal Species In The World

Animals that almost seem imaginary.
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The world is full of amazing animals. So amazing, that narrowing them down to 20 felt nearly impossible. To determine who made the cut for this list, I used very important factors such as, cuteness and how much some of them looked like Pokémon . I know, very official. So here are some of the coolest animals in the world.

1. Pink Fairy Armadillo

The pink fairy armadillo is the smallest and cutest species of armadillo. It is on the list of threatened species and is found in the sandy plains, dunes, and grasslands of Argentina. The pink fairy armadillo is a nocturnal creature that survives mostly on insects and plants.


2. Okapi

The okapi is an animal native to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. Although the stripes make many people believe okapi are related to zebra, they are actually closer to giraffe. Okapi are solitary creatures and come together to breed. They are herbivores, mostly eating leaves, grass, and other plants.


3. Glaucus Atlanticus or "the Blue Dragon"

These little dragon-like creatures are often only about a few inches long and can be found in the Indian Pacific Oceans. The blue dragon floats upside down in order to blend the blue side of them with the water, and the silver side with the surface of the ocean. This tiny dragon feeds on creatures like the man o' war and can even deliver a sting similar to it.


4. The Maned Wolf

The maned wolf is often found in the grasslands of south, central-west, and southeastern parts of Brazil. It is neither related to wolves nor foxes despite its appearance and name, but is actually closer to dogs. The maned wolf hunts alone and primarily eats both meat and plants (about 50% of its diet).


5. Fossa

The fossa is a carnivorous animal located in Madagascar. Despite having many traits similar to cats, it is more closely related to the Mongoose. The fossa is only found in forest habitats and can hunt in either daytime or night. Over 50 percent of its diet happens to be lemurs.


6. Japanese Spider Crab

As the name suggestions, the Japanese spider crab inhabits the waters surrounding Japan. In many parts of Japan, this crab can be considered a delicacy but can be considerably difficult to catch. The Japanese spider crab can grow to 12 feet long from claw to claw. There is only one sea creature-- amongst similar species (aka crustaceans)-- that beats the weight of a Japanese spider crab: the American Lobster.


7. Pacu Fish

Look closely at the teeth, do they look familiar? This fish is found in the waters of South America. This fish, while related to the piranha, can actually grow much larger. They can also be found in rivers like the Amazon and is an aid to the fishing industry. Unlike the piranha, pacu mostly only eat seeds and nuts, though can still create nasty injuries to other animals if need be.


8. Slow Loris

The slow loris is a nocturnal creature found in Southeast Asia. While very adorable, the loris's teeth are actually quite venomous. The toxin on their teeth can also be applied to fur through grooming to protect its babies from predators. Often times these creatures forage and spend time alone, although can on occasion be seen with other slow lorises. Apart from their toxic teeth, the slow lorises have another defense mechanism, in which they move nearly completely silently in order to prevent discovery.


9. Angora Rabbit

These cute, fluffy rabbits are among the hairiest breeds of rabbit of both wild and domestic types. These rabbits originated in Turkey although managed to spread throughout Europe and was even brought to the United States in the 20th century. These rabbits are often bred for their soft wool which can be made into clothing, and often get rid of their own coats every 3-4 months.


10. Axolotl

The axolotl or "Mexican salamander" (who looks like a Pokémon , if you ask me) is often spotted in lakes in various places around Mexico. These little salamanders are amphibious although often spend their adult lives strictly in the water. However, the population of these cute creatures is dwindling due to non-native predators and the continued urbanization of Mexico. The axolotl eats small worms, insects, and fish in order to survive.


11. Liger

The liger, however made up it sounds, is a real (and cute) animal created by a lion and a tiger mating. Ligers only seem to exist in captivity or zoos because the lion and tiger don't share the same habitat in the wild. Unfortunately, these animals don't live very long or are sterile despite being bigger than both the lion and the tiger. While these animals are cool and unique, they are not strictly natural or sustainable.


12. Bearded Vulture

I don't know about you all, but this vulture reminds me of a phoenix which was initially why I looked into the creature. These vultures inhabit a range of places from southern Europe to the Indian subcontinent, to Tibet. This vulture, like other vultures, typically eats dead animals, although it has been documented that the bearded vulture will attack live prey more often than other vultures.


13. Goblin Shark


This unusual shark is also known as a "living fossil" because they are the last representative of sharks that lived about 125 million years ago. It is a deep sea shark that can grow between 10-13 feet if not longer. The goblin shark has been caught accidentally in every major ocean. The goblin shark is not a fast swimmer and relies on ambushing its prey.


14. Red Panda

This cute, small panda lives in the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. The red panda is rather small, only about the same size as most domestic cats. Its eating habits range from bamboo, to eggs, to insects, and several other small mammals. The red panda is primarily sedentary during the day and at night or in the morning does whatever hunting it needs to do.


15. Blobfish

This blobfish is, in a way, so ugly that it is cute (although reminds me of a certain Pokémon ) This fish lives in the deep waters of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. The blobfish has a density only sightly above that of water. The fish primarily hunts by just floating along and letting creatures wander into its mouth, rather than expending any energy.


16. Leaf Deer

The leaf deer is usually found in dense forests in the northwest region of Putao. The adult leaf deer only stands at about 20 inches high and the males and females are nearly identical except for an inch long horn on the males. It is called a leaf deer because hunters could wrap the deer in a single large leaf.


17. Tiger

While tigers are a more common animal than many others on this list, it is still one of the coolest animals in the world. Tigers are the largest of all cats and once ranged from Russia, to Turkey, to parts of Asia — almost all over the world. These animals are fierce, powerful creatures, although they are on the endangered species list.


18. Narwhals

Narwhals are a species of whale that live in the waters around Greenland, Canada, and Russia. The narwhal's diet changes depending on the time of year: in the spring the narwhal will eat cod, while in the winter the narwhal will eat flatfish. Narwhals can live up to 50 years and most frequently die of suffocation from being trapped under the ice.


19. Cheetah

Cheetahs, while more commonly heard of then some of the other animals on this list, are still incredibly cool. They often inhabit many parts of Africa and Iran. These amazing cats can reach up to 60 miles per hour in three seconds and use their tails to make quick and sudden turns. These amazing cats also have semi-retractable claws which helps with speed. The cheetah, however, doesn't have much besides speed to defend itself.


And finally....


20. Superb Bird of Paradise

This GIF demonstrates the mating dance used by male superb birds of paradise. Typically females reject about 20 mates before selecting one they want to mate with. They are often found in New Guinea although it is unsure just how many of these birds there are. As far as scientists know, the population has remained stable.

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr

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Labor Unions Are Integral To Our Country, And They Need Our Help

Organized labor has been a staple of this country for generations, and its' decline is forever associated with various declines in our standard of living.

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USW, UAW, Teamsters, AFSCME. Those may just sound like odd names to many, but to me and many American workers, they are the myriad labor unions that have been integral to our country and its' blue-collar population. They have helped in many ways to defend workers, give them good benefits plans, and to protect their salary and ability to work from corporations.

Now? They have been in decline for decades, and sit at just 10.7% of all workers according to U.S. government estimates. This is a remarkably low number for the United States' workforce and is also another sad part of the economic stagnation of the U.S. since union membership began to collapse.

It might seem a bit odd to believe that unions and income inequality would be linked: you would expect that, maybe as a gesture of goodwill, corporation executives might offer better benefits to retain talent.

This could not be further from the truth. Studies have indicated that unions have a positive effect from members to nonmembers.

In a study conducted measuring average household income from 1973-2015, researchers found that there was a robust correlation between income inequality and union decline. In fact, the study found that the wages of nonunion workers would have been 3-7% higher if union membership rates were noticeably higher.

This dramatic increase in income inequality can be attributed to multiple factors: increasing automation, workers being reduced to performing increasingly less-intricate tasks, outsourcing, college-degree preference and so on. However, as time has gone on and research has been conducted, unions have been shown to benefit society and counter income inequality via actions such as fighting for broader access to healthcare, which has been a key facet of income inequality.

Though unions are far weaker now than they have been historically, we have still seen their power: In Los Angeles, unions were able to help negotiate better pay and funding for school teachers. In West Virginia, unions were center-stage as the many teachers who wanted more money were granted by the governor.

As one can see, unions still have a part to play in our country and its' economy.

Unions remain integral to how we function. Without unions, many of the benefits, payment plans, and healthcare options would not exist. And that is why I am partial to unions: unions allowed for socioeconomic ascendancy, a better life for families, and a chance to live a good life despite not having the luxury of a college degree.

In a time where the world is saturated with degrees and not enough trade school workers, unions might just become essential yet again. I, for one, would welcome that. As a kid from Ohio, union workers are prevalent, and protecting them now and later is integral.

Support your local to rebuild the American dream.

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