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Around the World, Farmers’ Market-Style

Around the World, Farmers’ Market-Style

People say you don’t really know someone until you travel with them. Private idiosyncrasies are put on full display when you’re late to catch a flight or crammed into a tiny hotel room. Take my Aunt Muffin* who doesn’t leave home without a bottle of Chivas Regal stashed in her luggage. Or my sister’s boyfriend, Justin, who refused to look at—let alone take a picture next to—any building or historical site that wasn’t featured in the Eyewitness Travel Top 10 book during a trip to Barcelona. (There’s actually a photo of him closing his eyes while holding the book in front of a Gaudi-designed apartment building not featured in the Top 10 book.)

For me, I let my travel freak flag fly when it comes to farmers’ markets.

In the aforementioned Barcelona, I spent a total of nine hours (spread out over three days, mind you) in La Boqueria, an enormous public market that dates back to the early 13th century. I spent days, literally, walking up and down the aisles, checking out the artfully displayed arrangements of papayas and figs and morbidly taking mental note of how the number of live chickens seemed to dwindle with every lap around the market.

When I’m in Montreal, I bypass the strip clubs on Ste-Catherine for the Atwater and Jean-Talon Markets. While the Atwater Market, located in the English-speaking Westmount section of Montreal, is kind of like the Hamptons version of a farmers’ market (very neat, clean, just a tad overpriced; could very much picture Ina Garten mulling over the walnuts and Gerber daisies), the Jean-Talon Market is legit. Authentic in that almost every vendor comes from Quebec farms, this market has everything—fresh fruits and vegetables from at least 50 different farms, cheese mongers, fishmongers, spice merchants, butchers, patisseries (French, Turkish, Greek, etc), a creperie, a gelateria… the list goes on. And most importantly, Jean Talon—like La Boqueria—has these little mini cafes scattered throughout the market, where you can sit down and eat food that cannot possibly get any fresher. You can sit down at a fish stand, point to a fish, and five minutes later, you can be eating that fish. Amazing.

Which brings me to my point: Why doesn’t Boston have one of these amazing year-round farmers’ markets? Don’t we want to support our local farmers? Don’t we want to use fresh local ingredients whenever we can?

Of course we do, which is why the very existence of something as disgusting as the market at Haymarket so ludicrous. The stuff they’re hawking at Haymarket is leftover shit from the Chelsea docks that wasn’t even good enough for the buyers from Shaw’s. If it’s not already rotten, you can be sure that it will be the day after you bring it home. It’s not local, it’s not fresh—it’s an absolute joke! And that’s not even considering the rampant racism and ethnocentrism of the “vendors” who regularly harass and belittle people for poking around their product. A merchant that discourages customers from giving the peaches a little squeeze to see how ripe they are? Pathetic.

If you’re all for a year-round public market like me, check out the cats at Boston Public Market, who’ve been trying since 2001 to get one up and running.

*Names are not, in fact, changed to protect the innocent.

Posted by Amelia