Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Labor Market

To anyone who thinks that getting excited about the local farmers' market is a little over the top, I can only say, you haven't been to mine. Though I can usually predict most of the produce that shows up from week to week, every week holds a new surprise for me.

I set out at my usual early hour today, determined not to go overboard on shopping but wanting to get ingredients for salsa as well as for dinners during the week. I wandered through the market once, stopping to chat with farmers and vendors, but not ready to buy until I had seen what everyone had.

As I started back through the market, I started collecting goodies to take home:

--half a dozen ears of white corn and a bag of red popcorn from the Corn Queen

--broccoli, garlic, medium hot peppers, onions, and basil from the Cheerful Lady
--spelt flour and peanut butter cookies from Super Spelt Woman
--two pints of honey from the Beekeeper
--Red Haven peaches, Red Zebra tomatoes, and apple cider vinegar from the local orchard stand
--more tomatoes from the Potato Farmer

By the time I got to the Gentleman Farmer's stand and cast my eyes over the variety of produce he and his family had brought, I was well loaded down already and only intended to get a couple more items and head home. But the Farmer's Wife stopped me with a wide-eyed exclamation and asked if I'd be willing to help her out by manning the stand with her while her husband headed off to pick up their eldest son from summer camp.

Having no other plans aside from spending the day in the kitchen (off and on), I agreed, even before she offered to let me have any produce I wanted in place of cash wages. (That certainly sealed the deal!) So I tied on a money belt, acquainted myself with the produce and the prices, and jumped right into the fray to learn the ropes of selling good local farm fresh produce.

The farmers' market looks very different from behind the table: though you don't get much time to talk with each customer, sometimes you get an interesting insight into their lives. One young woman and her boyfriend were planning a roasted vegetable dish for dinner and were pondering the use of some of the small beets available (so of course I had to add my two cents' worth of culinary advice!). One older woman, a local schoolteacher, stopped to talk about ways to cook okra, having grown up in Louisiana. And a number of people I know from work stopped to give me a double take, wondering if I'd finally had my fill of the usual work politics and stress and had truly headed back to the land. (I wish!)

Two hours passed quickly, between the steady flow of customers, the need to restock bins, and the fun exchanges with the Farmers' little girl. By the time the Gentleman Farmer returned with his boys in tow, I was almost reluctant to hand over the money belt because I'd been having such a good time! (Don't worry, I gave them back all the money. I'd like to stay a good customer!)

And in return, they sent me home with gushing thanks and plenty of produce: two pints of okra, a quart of green beans, more garlic, three poblano peppers, and a big red onion.

I think they would have sent me home with even more produce, but I resisted adding any more to my already overflowing basket and bags since I certainly don't want to let the week get away from me and to have any of the food go to waste.

After unpacking my goodies at home, I started right in on preserving: blanching and freezing green beans and broccoli, and boiling ears of corn to strip and freeze as well. Later on today, I'll tackle the salsa as well as make a coffeecake for tomorrow's "work shift" at the Inn. (As the old saying goes, "No rest for the wicked... and the righteous don't need none!" I'll let you guess which category suits me better.)

There's a lot of work surrounding the farmers' market, between the work the farmers do to bring their goods to market and to sell it all (and now I understand a little more!) and the work I do at home to enjoy it all, either now or later.

But it's work that feels good all the way around, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.


At 7/29/2007 8:24 PM, Blogger Tina said...

That sounds like so much fun; I'm a bit jealous!

At 7/30/2007 6:54 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Oh, it WAS so much fun! All I can say is, start chatting up your local farmers! :-)


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