Odds are you’ve probably read an article or two extolling the virtues of shopping at your local farmers' market in order to get the best of what is local and in season. Since it’s National Farmer's Market Week, you may have already done that today. However, have you ever considered how awesome it is to WORK there? I started seven years ago for North Star Orchard, and I love my market days so much that I made you a little list to let you know why!
1. Early morning sunrises - Sure, it’s dark when I get up on Saturday, while you’re probably still in bed. There might be some grumbling and I might hit the snooze button once (or twice….or maybe three times if I’m not out of dry shampoo). While I do enjoy having the music volume up and the road to myself on the way in to the farm, it’s a real treat to watch the sun come up as we finish loading the trucks and hit the road for the mark
2. Your kids and dogs - I LOVE seeing all the kids and dogs. Seriously. I have my own, of course, but yours are so much nicer and I don’t have to yell at them. I really adore watching the kids find their favorite treat, or painstakingly pick out the best apples. It’s great to ask them questions and answer their questions and see them engaged with their food and the seasons. Even the melting-down toddler who doesn’t understand why he can’t have an entire baguette for second breakfast (I feel your pain, kid) and makes his embarrassed parents question their life choices is welcome. I get it - and I hope it doesn’t thwart that family from coming to the market again. As for the dogs - come on, have you seen some of the market doggos? So much floof.
3. I get to drive a big truck. Sure, it might not seem like that big of a deal, but I’ve impressed many four year olds AND my Mom with it. While my minivan at home is a sweet ride, learning to drive and handle a big, heavy, rumbling box truck in all kinds of weather has emboldened me as a driver. My chariot awaits!
4. It’s taught me to think quick on my feet. When things don’t go perfectly at market, we can come up with some pretty creative solutions on the fly. Did one of our tables break? Canopy lose a part? Did the weather suddenly take a turn for the worse? Did someone park in our spot and we have to work around them? We tend to be a pretty prepared lot - a few extra crates and some zip ties go a long way.
5. It finances my farmer’s market habit. I’ve always been the sort of person who would be exploring a city or town, turn the corner, and randomly end up in a farmers' market. It’s uncanny how often it’s happened. As a customer, I LOVE a good market. One of my favorite things to do is to talk with people who make or grow things. Needless to say, I rarely net a profit on market days considering my purchases. I’ve made my peace with this.
6. I get to play in the weather. Let’s face it, on a rainy weekend day at home, we’re most inclined to take shelter in our homes. I’m grateful that so many of our customers are intrepid enough to come out when the weather gets interesting - because as long as it is safe, we’ll be there. I’ve had the good fortune to work on perfect autumn days where the morning is crisp and the afternoon sun drips like melted gold. However, over the course of our season, it might also be brutally hot or freezing cold. I’ve worked in rain storms and snow showers. Because I don’t have to deal with it every day, I get to appreciate the novelty of it and have gained a new respect and empathy for those folks who have to work in the elements regularly I’m not going to say there was snowball fight at the end of market, but I’m not NOT going to say that either.
7. The vendor community. Even though we’re all responsible for what goes on under our own canopies, we all tend to look out for each other. I love recommending fellow vendors to our customers. The sense of community and shared experience we have is pretty special, in my opinion Your “neighbors” at market are with you for the whole season, and often from season to season. It’s worth getting to know them. Also, how many of you can say that the next cubicle over smells like good bread and your coworker makes sure to save you your favorite pastry? Thanks, Andy!
8. It’s a great workout. During peak season, between moving fruit from the coolers to the truck and getting it out at market, a ton of fruit might pass through my hands. Then there’s the cider, and the veggies and the fruit CSA shares to consider. It’s hard work getting loaded and setting up a market, especially if it’s your weekend gig and you aren’t conditioning yourself by working on the farm during the week. It’s like Crossfit, but with fewer tires to flip (hopefully). Personally, it feels a bit more productive.
9. You. Yes, you. Getting to know the folks that come to see us is arguably my favorite aspect of market. I’ve seen some of the same faces year after year. I get to know what people like, and try to recommend other things they might enjoy. I watch your kids grow, your tastes change. I love to hear about what you did with last week’s onions, or your big plan for that bag of apples. I love seeing the look on a new customer’s face when I tell them how many varieties of apple we grow, or they try their first Asian pear. I’ve had customers bring me recipes to try or samples of good things they’ve made. I have met some of the most interesting people, and heard some really great funny stories from our customers. I may not always remember your names, but trust me, I look forward to seeing your faces every week.