Tarsus is an ancient Turkish city with over 9000 years of history, and has always been a strategic junction of for land and sea routes, connecting trade from three key areas: the fertile Çukurova plain, central Anatolia and the Mediterranean.
Even today agriculture is an important source of income in this area: half of the area of the district, in fact, is made up of agricultural land and most of the remaining territory is made up of woods and orchards.
Tarsus is also home to the newest Earth Market in the growing Slow Food family of good, clean and fair markets now present in 27 countries around the world. The market is located in the evocative setting of the sixteenth-century Kubat Pasha Madrasa, in the heart of the city center.
To get a better picture we spoke to the market coordinator, Yasmina Lokmanoglu.
So Yasmina, what will visitors be able to find at the market, and how is it organized?
“We divided the exhibitors into six groups according to category. Fruit and vegetable growers; olive and olive oil producers; animal products; bread, dried pasta and pastries; food craftsmen including producers of dried fruit, vegetables, vinegar etc.; and non-food craftsmen including coppersmiths, knife smiths, tailors, soap and cosmetic producers, etc. We have some Ark of Taste products on sale too: Sari Ulak Olives, Bozyazi Kavutu, Red Tort Cheese, Patkara Grape vinegar, and also Tasheli wines produced from patkara grapes, though we are not allowed to sell alcohol in the market square because of the presence of the tomb of Prophet Daniel, but we found a solution by just having brochures at the market; visitors can buy these wines from a restaurant nearby.”
What is the division like between the 60+ producers at the market?
“There are 18 fruit and vegetable stalls, four olive and olive oil producers, 31 food craftsmen, three vendors selling animal products (sausages, eggs, goat cheese, goat milk ice cream, honey, three bakers, two street vendors of sweets, seven non-food artisans and a cafe owner who will serve brunch on the street. For now, in total, we have 69 producers.”
What are the other markets in Tarsus like, and why do you think the local people will appreciate the Earth Market?
“Because Slow Food is an internationally-recognized brand, and we offer certified-organic local products. We hosted Tarsus Gastronomy Days here with the same stakeholders for three years in a row when I was the chair of the civic city council from 2014-2019, and both the vendors and visitors were very happy. They earned god money and connected with consumers. That is why they believe in us. The other street markets are regular markets as you can find in every city, but the Tarsus Slow Food Earth Market is going to be such a step up in terms of quality that we’ll receive visitors from neighboring cities too.”
Besides karsambaç, are there any other local specialties from Tarsus that we should know about?
There is a tree again in Camliyayla, it is called Andic (Syrian Juniper); they make molasses from the fruit of these threes. We’ll make a short video about this soon. There are also people producing tar from cedar wood.
What are your hopes, dreams and goals for this market?
Simply to raise awareness about purchasing, consuming and producing habits within the local and neighboring communities, and contributing to make it a better place to live and work.
What does it mean for you and the other Earth Market organizers to be part of this global movement?
It means I’m part of a group that is helping their fellow humans to get better at interacting with their environment, to improve their relationship with nature.
A detailed guide to the market (in Turkish) is also available.
by Jack Coulton, firstname.lastname@example.org