Sitting on my couch, drinking a stout with my friend Gee and watching the Phils losing game, I saw an email come in from the director of the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market. Rebbie’s usual assistant couldn’t make it and she asked if I would be interested in helping her out on Saturday. I replied immediately with a YES.
Those of you living in The DMV will know about the relentless rain in the past few days. But as I emailed a few neighborhood friends to visit me, I wrote that never was I so excited to be out in the rainy cold for five hours on a weekend morning.
I mostly stood by a table that said “market manager” and when I was asked questions I would have to hope that the actual manager would be close by. I also took charge of the credit card machine: shoppers can swipe their debit cards and receive tokens in exchange. So besides learning how to work that gadget, I picked up a few other things from being on the other side of the market.
10 Things I Learned From One Day as an Assistant Manager of Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market
1. Access. Farmers markets, of course, provide sustainably grown produce and artisanally crafted breads and cheeses to the community. But who is that community? Markets are finding ways to accept government food assistant programs to make sure that everyone can enjoy thoughtfully grown fruits and vegetables. I learned that one kind of program only allows for purchases of fruits and vegetables and not breads, cheeses or flowers. I agree with Belmont, who worked for a vendor this market season, on this one: “never underestimate a well placed bunch of flowers to lift the spirits.”
2. Gold Lamé Tights. Many shoppers remember to bring cash so in the large gaps of time between the debit card-token exchange, Rebbie, Patrick (see #3) and I dished about market fashions. Yes, someone pulled it together to wear gold lamé tights before noon.
3. Bike Repair. Farmers markets offer more than just food. Mt.P holds a free bike clinic and showcases local musicians. In the most crappy of weather that was Saturday not many people brought by their bikes, which left more time to chat about food and the point of slouchy boots.
4. Honeycrisps. This type of apple is so trendy right now. I don’t usually favor one brand over another, but 80P started requesting this one by name. While waiting for the bathroom key (see # 5) I asked the orchardist why honeycrips were so popular. Apparently there cell structure is different than most apples and they have 4 times the amount of pectin. If I understood this correctly, pectin makes the apple crunchy. Therefore honeycrisps are hella crunchy. Don’t even think about baking with them.
5. Bathroom Key. The bathroom key is the hottest item at the market.
6. Cardoon. It’s the biggest vegetable I’ve ever seen. It’s related to the artichoke.You can only eat the stalks. The leaves are some sort of poisonous.
7. Discount. As a Pollan devotee, I realize what the REAL price of food is. And it’s not what chain supermarkets sell their beef for. Consider the size of land needed for animals to actually graze, consider the amount of money workers need for a real living wage, consider the vigilance it takes to grow foods naturally. None of that is accounted for in $2 for a dozen and half of eggs. Actually, besides clothes and cooking, Patrick, Rebbie and I also discussed different rebuttals to the claim that farmers markets are so expensive and elitist. So while I happily pay $1.50 for a head of garlic (what I would pay for a 16oz Coke and not even think about it) I received an “employee” discount at the market that day. That was awesome!
8. Long Drives. Farmer Jaci is soaking wet. She’s been outside selling broccoli and cauliflower and the last of the season‘s bell peppers for 5 hours. She now has to drive two hours back to the farm. And the night before she had to leave a wedding early (where her old high school crush was hitting on her!) because she had to make it to the farmers market super early. Farmers deserve so much love.
9. Rebbie. Rebbie’s the market manager. She knows so much about food. After I complimented the beautiful purple and orange carrots she bought and told her I actually don’t like carrots, just sometimes when they’re raw, she let me know that carrots release their nutrients once cooked. When I think of cooked carrots I only know them as mush. But she gave me the idea to quickly sautee them in butter, not roast them until they’re goopy and now I’m really excited to try carrots. She also told me to cook dried beans with whey to aid in digestion. And how does one get whey? Skim it off of good quality yogurt. She can communicate in French and Spanish. She owns the farmers market.
10. The End. The cold weather reminded people that the market is coming to a close. Almost everyone asked when the last day was: it’s the Saturday before Thanksgiving. <tear>