A personal view of farmers' markets, from the seller's side.


"The market is basically a village that we build every week"
wertperch


I get up when the birds are still asleep, around 0230 or 0315 depending on where the market is that day. I cook breakfast for myself and make enhanced bacon sandwiches for myself and the farmer. The farmer has a similar timeline, but he's loading the van and driving to a location from the farm. I either cycle into town for around 0530 or drive to a pickup point to get to the more distant markets. I do this three times a week at this time of the year. We usually start setting up around 0600, a process that can take up to an hour and a half depending on how many things we have. We aim to be ready for customers around 0730, so that means eating our sandwiches and getting coffee that time.

Why do I do this? It's not just because it's a job. It's not just because the farmer is one of my best friends (he was the third person when I first came to the US in the autumn of 2004). It's not all about selling food, either; I do this because the farmers' market is a good chunk of my social life.

Imagine, if you will, a village. There's a post office, a pub, the little corner store, a church and a village green complete with duckpond. The villagers live all around and come in to post letters, drink beer, buy milk, and above all to socialise. In each of these places the queue is not an imposition, it's an opportunity to chit-chat, to swap gossip, inquire after the health of others, catch up on the news. Oh, and to post letters, drink beer and so on. It's the third place. Sure, people are working in this environment, people are with their families, but they're also with the other inhabitants, checking up on them and sharing the social bounty.

That's what the farmers' market is about. Yes, I'm selling veggies to the people that will be eating them later in the day or week, but I'm also helping to oil the wheels of the society that comes from all over the town and county. I once asked about a dozen people why they came to market, and the split was even between "getting fresh food" and "meeting people". It's why I see folks shooting the breeze when they're lining up for coffee, or fruit and veg, flowers or whatever. The vendors catch up with their customers and one another. Favours are done, gifts exchanged, greetings shared, help given and taken.

I discovered the real power of this when I had to take a week off due to illness. I had texts and emails from people saying that so-and-so was asking after me, and hoped I was recovering. Three people sent cards, and when I returned there were little gifts to welcome me home. Yes, I'm home. This is my village, these are my people.





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