Confessions of a Farmer's Market Virgin
Our Marketing Manager, Marley, had never been to a farmers' market. This is her story:
Confession: I’ve never been to a farmers' market.
I know. I’m sorry.
Despite countless fruitless (literally) mid-morning suggestions, I somehow managed to miss them for 26 years.
As I’m planning my first trip for tomorrow, I’m realizing that after romanticizing it for years, I have real questions. Do I bring my own bags? Is it cash only? Am I granola enough to fit in? Is that even a thing anymore?
I don’t want to look like a lost puppy wandering around or, even worse, invite my worst introverted fear of holding up a long public line. Luckily I have backup coming, my coworker, so if I’m going to embarrass myself at least I won’t be alone.
I know the value of fresh locally-grown vegetables and I am genuinely excited to see what I can find.
The morning of my trip rolls around, I wake up excited and ready to go. I pack as many reusable bags as I can find and dress for comfort and warmth (jeans and a light sweater). I thoroughly considered outer layers based on the stereotypical aesthetic, but pass. I have also been assured that we are living in the future and don't need anything as outdated as cash, so I skip the ATM.
The plan is to hit two markets early in the morning. Armed with my work buddy and bolstered confidence, we set off.
First up, the Santa Rosa Community Farmers’ Market at the Veterans Building at a brisk 9 am, I am first greeted by a table full of succulents in old teacups and the music of a cello. Expecting neither but appreciating both, I move forward and find my comfort zone in vegetables. There are two stands that have seasonal vegetables from farms no more than 20 miles from where I was. Amazing! I knew what I was looking for, but got a bit nervous in asking. Luckily, my coworker knew her way around and took charge.
The first stand was run by a lovely woman who explained that her turnips were harvested the day before and that she was very proud of how bright her radishes were. I purchase a bunch of each and try to pay with my credit card. She shakes her head side to side and points me to a booth across the way. Apparently this has happened enough times that she doesn't need to use words. She holds onto my selections as I walked over to the booth to learn about “Market Money”. It's made of paper and works just like cash! I feel incredibly silly, but make my way back and pay the nice woman.
At the second stand we make small talk with the owner about lettuce while I gather what I can buy with my remaining 4 Market Dollars - surprisingly a lot! We leave the first market with two large bunches of assorted Asian greens, some bright red radishes, and some beautiful turnips.
Electrified by the fact that I had survived the first half of my quest, we make our way to the second farmers' market. We arrive at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers’ Market and immediately notice it has twice the amount of stands overall. Upon further inspection, it ends up having about the same amount of stands selling produce.
We have a specific shopping list and find a stand that has just what we were looking for. We pick up purple cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli (much harder to find at your local grocery store), along with carrots and beets. As we try to pay with our card, we are again foiled. This time the vendor has forgotten his payment device so he holds our selected produce, and sends us into the Luther Burbank center to find an ATM. Cash in hand, the produce is ours.
Reflection: Overall my experience at the markets was mystifying but charming. People from all walks of life were at the market. With so much to look at and sample, the last thing that mattered was what I was wearing .
There is something to be said for the feeling you get when buying your produce from someone that nurtured it from a seed. Clearly farming has advanced and it isn’t always that quaint, but I really did feel good about going to the markets for my food.
If you are planning your first trip, don’t be overwhelmed. Bring your own bags, do a bit of research on seasonal produce so you know what to expect, and please, PLEASE bring cash.
*I should mention that we went to these markets on a Wednesday in January. This is clearly not the optimal day or time of year, but now that I have an idea of what I’m in for, I’m definitely ready to try again.
The purpose of the trip was to do "market" research on local winter produce to help fine-tune our Concierge Gardening service. We are constantly optimizing to find the best blend of healthy varietals that grow well in each microclimate and may not necessarily be available, even from your local farmer's market.