Tag Archives: trading

poor in pocket, rich in food

Farmflash:

  • The Canadian government supports organic food. (Don’t even get me started on our Farm Bill.)
  • Baltimore jumps on the local bandwagon.

Foggy River:

At the Windsor Market today, we made $100 less than we did last week, but right now we are wealthy in food. One awesome thing about the farmer’s market: the generosity of the vendors and the after-hours trading that takes place there.

Although we’re technically competing with one another for sales, there’s a great sharing spirit among vendors. Hey, we’re all growing stuff (except for the bakeries, which are baking stuff, which is in the same spirit), and for one day each week we’re neighbors, so we’ve got quite a bit in common to begin with. Add to that the fact that I have a ton of beans burning a hole in my pocket (errr… trunk), and you’ve got some beautiful apples: trading is the natural next step.

We’re not talking a stressful auctioneer-style barter system here. It’s more like “Can I give you some beans? Please?” “Sure, but only if I can give you some apples.” Everyone is always urging everyone else to take more, not less. “Just one more pepper. Really. Don’t be shy.” Yesterday, our neighbor at the Healdsburg market declared, “I’m not taking home any of these table grapes. If I want more, I can go and pick them from the vine myself.” She then set out determinedly down the aisle to give the grapes away to other growers.

At the end of the day, I delight in the free luxuries of a farmer’s market farmer. A fresh baguette from a local bakery, a walnut-raisin loaf, a roasted garlic loaf, Gravenstein apples, pears, peppers, grapes, and someone else’s gigantic yellow heirloom tomatoes can make a person feel pretty rich… even if she doesn’t happen to have a particularly cushy bank account.

Above picture: our current currency, purple beans. (Other denominations include Armenian cucumbers, mixed brassica greens, cherry tomatoes, and chard.)

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table, check. umbrella, check. quarters, ones, check…

Today [June 22] was our first farmer’s market, and I’m exhausted.

We’ve been preparing for the market for the past three days. We managed to locate, borrow or create most of the necessities: a wooden sign with our farm name, paper signs identifying the veggies, a table, tablecloth, coolers, ice, baskets, chairs, umbrella. We packed everything in the Subaru the night before to make sure it all fit. (Yes, barely.) We wanted a scale, too, but local stores quoted us $300 for a certified, farmer’s-market-approved scale. ($300?! We decided to wait and keep an eye on eBay.)

Then, this morning, we rose at 6 AM. We spent two-plus hours harvesting and washing. First the radishes — the oblong, pink-and-white french breakfast ones and a traditional deep fuchsia spherical variety — which were double-washed. One bucket to get the gobs of mud off; one to make them shine. Then we moved on to the bok choi, which only took one rinse — a bath that was mostly intended to rid the greens of flea beatles. My little brother identified our bok choi as a Swiss variety. As in holey, like the cheese. (We didn’t realize the flea beetles were bad guys until it was too late… actually, we didn’t even know what to call them until we read about them on the seed packet two days ago. They’re tiny, iridescent little black beetles, and the name “flea beetle” made perfect sense. For our second round of bok choi, we’re going to try and use a row cover to confuse/deter them.)

Then we turned to the baby brassica greens that we were selling as a lettuce mix (one that could also be tossed into stir fries or soups). We snipped, soaked and, lacking a salad spinner, shook them as dry as we could before bagging them. Emmett was the official Salad Dancer, and will likely continue to salad dance until we’re really rich and can afford a gigantic, commercial-sized salad spinner — which judging by the cost of the scale will probably set us back at least $150.

Then, off to the market! It was satisfying to set up our little stand and put our hard work out there for others to enjoy. While Emmett and I were a bit embarrassed by our bug-eaten produce — the arugula and bok choi were a tad on the green lace side — many of our customers didn’t seem to mind at all. “As long as it tastes good,” one lady said. A man sympathized: “Oh, I’m in the grape business, trust me, I know how it goes.” We’re grateful for their understanding — and were thrilled when people complimented our produce or bought multiple things. Two bags of greens, a bunch of radishes, that’s almost $10 in one fell swoop! For us, that’s a dinner out — two burritos and a shared drink.

Other things of note: The radishes were a suprisingly big hit. I thought Emmett was silly to plant them, since I consider radishes to be a fairly dull affair. And to add insult to my radish injury, when we were re-reading the seed packet yesterday, we noticed that both varieties suggested that children plant them. “Fun for kids to grow! …almost disease free.” (In other words, our most successful crop so far is one that’s pretty hard to screw up.) Radishes: was it the color that attracted people? The fact that they’re so mundane, they’re rarely seen in the farmer’s market? We also put out fun radish recipes courtesy of the Radish Council, including a hot-and-sour-soup and a southwestern cobb salad. Maybe our customers were impressed by their versatility.

Did I mention I’m exhausted? My body is tired from harvesting, watering, and hauling all of the farmer’s market “stuff.” I’m a bit sunburned from several hours sitting in the half-shade of our too-small umbrella. (It was me or the salad greens, and being a true farmer I let the greens have the shade.)

Total market proceeds: $98. $9.80 went to the farmer’s market to pay for the use of the space and the organization. Another $25 went to pay our annual dues, since it was our first time at the market. Which leaves us with $63.20.

Considering that we’ve worked (between the two of us, extremely conservatively), 80 hours a week for 3 weeks, and Emmett put in a couple of 60-hour weeks before that, our earnings come to about 17 cents an hour. (And that’s not taking into account our significant start-up costs: seeds, irrigation, soil amendments, manure. But I don’t feel like going there right now, so I won’t.)

And besides, we also got one beautiful red onion, one butter crisp lettuce head, two squash seedlings, and two bowls full of lovely orchids (of a species from Madagascar) from our neighbors at the farmer’s market, so really, we’re doing pretty well.

I may be tired, but really, I feel great.

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