It was our first day at the farmer’s market in the city yesterday. The week leading up to it was full of washing table cloths, finding tables, getting change from the bank, canning last years harvest out of the freezer (squash and tomatoes mostly), doing up pesto from dried tomatoes and basil and the last of the garlic, wrestling labels out of the printer, coaxing sunflower shoots and spinach out of their zygote stages in the greenhouse, gathering signs, photo albums, distractions and necessities for the kids and remembering how to put a smile on for the public.
Setting up the kids under the tent!
We pulled in to our usual spot beside the ‘cookie guy’ who my daughter insists that I call by his name, Brad. (Selling vegetables all day beside a guy who keeps shouting ‘fresh baked cookies!’ as he hauls them out of the oven wafting their enticing smells is both cruel and delicious). My children clearly remembered from 6 months ago that they were headed towards cookies. Somehow I hauled them out of bed and got them out of their pajamas, into some porridge and into the van by 7:15am without arguments. I think it was the cookies.
Rob standing at our booth beside the B. Goods Bakery.
Being in the not-so-South part of Canada in early May and going to a market where you are only allowed to sell things entirely grown on your own land can be interesting. I did not venture to find fiddleheads (one customer did ask) though I’m thinking I’ll go back to the forest later this week. We’ve relied heavily on early greens and anything dried or frozen from the fall harvest.
Gabriel getting his face painted in front of our stand
What I did not anticipate was the very warm welcome from our regular customers from last year. It was so incredibly rewarding to see their smiling faces and armful of bags ready to be filled. There was the couple who take one of everything without asking questions, the single woman who seems genuinely interested in how each and every thing is grown, the fellow who shows up 5 minutes after we’ve packed everything away at closing time telling us to haul out a selection of items of our choice from anything that is left, our good friends who bring hugs from their children and give us an opportunity to see them every week. We’ve learned a dance with each of these people. We give them as much information as they need, and they are free to make their choices. No pushy marketing, nothing to hide, only real people exchanging real things.
It was also really nice to see the other returning vendors again. There is Graham with his fabulous spelt breads, flour and jam squares. There is Joseph with that ridiculously tasty sheep milk cheese, Brad and his cookies of course, John with his enviable produce display across from our stand, Isabelle with her dips. It is very satisfying to be part of such a family of people attempting to make their way from the things they make with their land and/or their own two hands.
What I thought would be a stressful day of trying to find our bearings and reintroduce our children to the rhythms of the day turned out to be a wonderful sense of coming home. It was pure joy to stand there chatting about nothing and everything with new friends and old.
We managed to sell more than we thought we would but it was certainly not going to be our best market day of the year. As in all things farming, you can’t really focus on the hours you log or the units you produce. Your hands move one over the other, repeatedly, day after day until there is something to show for it. If you are lucky, someone will want to compensate you for your work.
And we are lucky.