Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Farmer's Market

Saturday is market day, which really starts early Friday morning. Think 28 hour marathon and you'd have it just about right. We start by walking through the rows, checking each crop for maturity. "Oh, these peppers are finally big enough!" or "Why are these tomatoes sooo poky to turn red?" are the kind of comments that can be heard. A list is made and each item crossed off as we harvest. The grunt jobs-digging potatoes for instance, can be a bear when temps and humidity are high. We can easily empty a gallon jug of water, a gallon of ice tea and more while we are working. Keeping hydrated is hard when sweating profusely. I will appreciate Fall.

After harvest comes the post-harvest stuff. Washing, sorting, weighing and packing are next. Some vegetables do not require washing, in fact should not be washed, unless very dirty. Potatoes dug after a rain are quite muddy and must be cleaned. This can sometimes take hours. There have been many a Saturday I've arrived at market on a few hours sleep!

No matter, when that alarm rings it's time to jump. Usually the van is loaded the night before with produce. Still waiting are the canopy, tables, tablecloths (which were washed and folded during the week), display boxes, cash register, bags, signs, markers, tape, scissors, clean apron and other items. Market farmers have different strategies for remembering all this stuff. Some have a large Rubbermaid bin where all market "stuff" is permanently kept. You would be surprised at how many odds and ends are necessary to cope with small "emergencies". I can remember a fruit vendor (who had been selling at market many years) that forgot his tables!!! Canopy weights are a safety mandate, flying canopies anyone? Loading and unloading multiple times is backbreaking.

BUT, despite all the above, when the stand is finally ready and customers show up, it is GREAT! I have met the nicest folks these last few years through selling at market. Even if they are not buying anything they stop by and say hello! Each sale is so much more than a transaction. We exchange news, recipes, and sometimes a customer will bring me a favorite pepper or tomato variety to try. Market is also where people run into friends and neighbors, more chatting. It really is a lively community event. The other vendors are exceptionally nice. I have made good friends and visited several of their farms to see where their produce or fruit is grown. Our market manager is a hands-on helper, just all around good guy. Maybe not all markets are so personal. I am very thankful for this particular market.

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