Tuesday, August 5, 2014

National Farmers Market Week: Tales from the Farm

In honor of National Farmers Market week, I'm posting this creative nonfiction piece I wrote a few years ago.

The smell of fresh tomatoes hits me like a sudden slap. No matter how much time I spend handling these fruits, their smell never blends in with the world and makes my senses immune to it the way the smell of a close friend's house sometimes will. As I reach into the bed of my beloved little pick-up truck to grab the day's first tray, the smell rushes through my body and I know I'm about to sell a product you simply won't find at the supermarket. I bring the tray out to one of the folding tables and go back to the truck for more.
Cucumbers in a wicker basket, green beans in a wooden box, a bushel of potatoes: half Yukon Gold and half Red Bliss, and a carton of yellow squash so freshly picked their skins are still prickly. Then the paper bags, cash box, and scale. Now I'm ready.
My two tables are set up under a small white tent at the far end of the market. Under the matching white tent to my left, Maura and Rachel from Temple Gardens in Fairfield are taking boxes of corn and Swiss chard and collard greens from their truck. On my right, Mark is attaching a banner to his tent that proclaims Smith's in Montville to be "Connecticut's Oldest Certified Organic Farm". I find a bit of chalk in the cash box, and write on my chalkboard "Stony Lane Farm, Route 1, Durham. All Produce Grown Sustainably", displaying it in front of one of the bushel baskets.
Saturday is my favorite market day. For one thing, it's the biggest and the busiest. The business makes the day go by quickly. The vendors are in good spirits because their sales are up, and the customers are in good spirits because it's Saturday. These are the people who delight in getting up and out by nine o'clock to be sure the get the best produce.  It's refreshing to see, in the heart of the city, people helping each other select the freshest loaf of bread, the juiciest plums, the zucchini of the deepest green. The same regulars come on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but they are different people then, and the city is a different city. On weekdays these people are on their lunch breaks or in the midst of tedious errands, in a rush to grab something for that night's dinner before scurrying back to their offices and soccer practices and dentist appointments.

I see Ben bringing the breakfast tray: the other wonderful part of Saturday.  It's nothing special really, just some pastries donated by a local bakery, but they make all the difference to people who have been hard at work since before the sun came up. As far down the line as I am today, I know my chances of there being a chocolate one left by the time Ben gets here are slim, but I cross my fingers anyway.