Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When a Farmer’s Market Isn’t So Fun

There’s nothing like a day well spent at a Farmer’s Market. The stalls are packed with produce, handmade goods, baked goods, hand wrought craft items, and so much more. The sky is blue, the strawberries red, the lettuce bright green, and you can smell the baked goods three tents down.

The constant, happy chatter is only is intermittently interrupted by dogs barking, children laughing, and the occasional car horn. It is a happy celebration of local agriculture and community.

But a rainy day at a farmers market is a different experience. A few Saturdays ago I had the privilege of working the Hudson Farmers Market on such a rainy Saturday.

Firstly, it was chilly. Now, I prefer chilly weather, so initially the temperature did not put me off. But the unrelenting rain slowly turned a cool summer day into a damp, cold, miserable day. Not unlike, one must assume, the weather that seemed to cloud Heathcliff’s home in Wuthering Heights. Unfortunately, I had neither a jacket nor Merle Oberon to keep me warm.

Secondly, after it was all over, I felt like Colridge’s Ancient Mariner. “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink….” No matter where one looked, the rain came down. There were puddles, and splashing, slushing, slurping, slashing rain and torrents of water that seemed to penetrate the roofs of out tents like cheesecloth. It slipped and slid its way down crevices and pinholes to drip, drop, plop its way onto our table, our heads, our backs, and our products.

With such rain, few people came. Most of the brave souls who did attend were dedicated regulars, kind, community minded people who like fresh produce. Most huddled underneath umbrellas, trying to dodge the drops, faces scrunched up, as if the rain stung, while other wandered in ponchos, incredulous at the deluge. They hurried on their way, cowed and determined.

What made matters worse? The fun of working a farmers market is shopping the stalls yourself between sales. Usually, among the many small breaks on a sunny day, vendors scamper and scurry back and forth to neighboring tents to purchase eggs, or fruit, or vegetables, wine, honey, syrup, baguettes, and so many other little delicacies. But in the rain, we seemed hardly to mingle even amongst ourselves, instead making faces at one another, as each heavy sheet of rain fell. Too heavy to sell in, too heavy to take down our tents in, too heavy to shop in. Instead we shrugged, shirked, and grimaced, mugging at each other, laughing at our shared misery.

With me was Susan, a wonderful woman who works at the winery. She had volunteered to learn the farmers market routine to fill in on days when I could not attend personally. Stuck under the tent, she and I chatted amicably away. She was charming, polite, and cheerful, but I am sure I was not her choice of company for a sleepy, rainy, Saturday morning.

Finally, at the tale end of the day, the clouds were exhausted of their moisture, and the sun peaked through here and there, and a breeze came through. We sold a few things, and bought a few things more. I probably made more than I spent, but not by much. But these things happen. The best part was chatting with everyone after it was all done. No sense in cursing the weather, or fate, or God. No sense in grinding your molars. We need to make money, just like any other business, but it was too late to complain. We were all in the same boat….maybe we were in fact up the creek without a paddle. Regardless, it was over.

We packed up our tent, laughed at the cruel misfortune of the day, and drove back to the winery. We’ve had many great days at the market, this just wasn’t one of them. When I got home, we unpacked the car, and I went inside and changed my clothes and put on some warm, dry socks, and tried to shake it off, and start my day anew. Thus is a life spent in agriculture.
And I realized later, I wasn’t so angry, because while being at a farmers market is about making money for a farmer, the bigger issue is being part of the community. About making connections. And I knew I couldn’t wait to go back at the soonest possible moment.


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