Organic Farmers Hawk Their Wares and Preserve Village Traditions
Wandering around Vienna’s city center, just a couple of blocks away from the buzzing crowds at the Kärnterstrasse, I turned a corner and found myself at the Freyung, transformed into an organic Farmers’ Market, alive with color and bustling with life.
This dormant square awakens on Fridays and Saturdays every second week, when farmers from all over Austria come to the heart of Vienna to hawk their wares and preserve the traditions of country life. The wooden booths are set up around a circle, turning the cobbled square into a cozy village market. Cheese, meat, honey, bakery, soap, wine, vegetables and pottery spill out in every variety and color, the specialties of each region.
"Our family comes to the Freyung to sell our products and advertise our farm," said Elisabeth Gerhard a proud farmer from Meierhof in the Waldviertel, "But also to convey our philosophy of rural life.
A young mother shopping with her two children, looked genuinely wholesome. "It is a great way for children to feel closer to nature, a more rooted experience than an impersonal supermarket," she said, commenting that she liked returning to a special stand where people recognize you.
Although the chemical-free and unaltered goods top regular supermarket products not only in quality but also in cost. But that doesn’t seem to scare off young shoppers. Teenagers can be seen strolling around the huts and displays. Karolin, a university student came to buy "authentic organic products," because she wanted to boycott the commercialized ones that have become trendy.
Franziska and Alfred König have a farm in the Wachau region west of Vienna and come to the Freyung to sell their fruits and vegetables, grown for taste rather than shelf life. The natural colors and imperfection of the fruits was both pleasant and unusual to the eye. The apples had an invigorating scent, no comparison to the neutral smell of supermarket apples.
Christoph Zahlingen came to sell honey from his apiary Melissai in Dreistetten, all colors, from the delicate yellow-golden blossom, to the brunette, resinous wild honey. To one side, a crowd had gathered by a stack of wooden boxes – a comb dripping with honey with a swarm of REAL bees buzzing freely about.
An organic wine from the winery Zillinger in Velm-Goetzendorf, Lower Austria attracted a throng of curious tasters murmuring happily and swilling the glistening fluid in their glasses whilst enjoying the delicate aroma. The favorite wines that afternoon were Riesling Selection, Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Chardonnay and Gelber Muskateller.
To the Gerhards, the Freyung Bauernmarkt is vital to their existence, lives that revolve around biological farming and events like this. It’s also a celebration of good nutrition, and a sincere commitment to rural tradition, which seems to have infected even a hardened city crowd.