You know the old saying: When the farmers are away, the farm apprentice will … take care of the farm, keep all of the animals and veggies alive, and be a vendor at two farmers markets. Is that not how the saying goes? Well, then, I’ve been duped, because I just did an eight-day farm-sitting extravaganza like none I’ve done before. (And I’ve done a lot of farm and house sitting in the U.S. and abroad in the past 15 years!)
Farmer Adam and I were referring to this week of farm sitting as my final exam. I’m at the end of my seven-month stay as apprentice, and this was a fitting assignment for my over-ambitious self. I knew I could handle the farm as it is–I can keep animals and veggies alive under normal circumstances. Preparing for and selling at two farmers markets without the help of Farmers Adam and Rae, though, was another beast.
The Tuesday market was my first venture off the farm with the van and trailer. I’ve driven a truck and trailer many times, but I’ve never piloted a really large vehicle with a really small trailer. Tuesday was also the first time I was ever at this market–not just as a vendor, rather ever. So there’s that.
Preparing for Tuesday’s farmers markets is always hectic, trying to get everything harvested and packed by noon or so. Somehow, me and my Tuesday-morning team (Friend-Farmer Brian and Friend Rachael) got done really early. This is not because we are rock stars–though now I believe we are–rather I had a limited harvesting list and was not delivering the farm’s vegetable CSA share this week. (Two farmers markets and an egg CSA delivery I can handle; veggie CSA delivery on top of that? Heck no.) So Rachael and I arrived at the farmers market embarrassingly early and even had time to go around the block and pick up sandwiches before we started. Fellow farmers at the market knew it was my first time there and were unbelievably helpful! And the biggest mistake I made was setting up the tent with the Velcro tabs that hold our meat signs facing in the wrong direction. Not bad! Sales were not great, but that was due to lack of customers, and overall, this was a super first market to manage on my own.
I go to our Saturday farmers market just about every week, so I knew what to expect there. This is a larger market, both sales- and crowd-wise, so there was a little more pressure, yet I was not nearly as nervous about it. On the other hand, my two Saturday farmers-marketeers, Friends Beth and Liz, had no idea what to expect. Beth had at least come to the market with me once before, has shopped at other farmers markets and is familiar with all of the vegetables. Liz, though, hadn’t seen our market in action and doesn’t frequent other markets or use as large a variety of veggies that we sell. Both were amazing, as I knew they’d be, and didn’t even complain too much that it was 50 degrees and raining most of the day. (That they are still my friends after allowing me to drag them through that experience is testament to their character.)
The weather definitely kept customers away (what do people eat when it’s raining and they don’t go shopping at the farmers market?), so that sucked for sales and all of the hard-harvested veggies that Rachael and I toiled over that week. It was probably good to have had a slow market to break in Beth and Liz easy. Next time I need farmers marketeers, they’ll be good to go. (Right, ladies?)
My favorite quote of Saturday came from another farmer at the market who apparently didn’t know I was going to be there without Adam and Rae: “Adam trusted you with this? And the van and trailer?” There was a definite tone of disbelief in his statement. What, does every farmer not allow his apprentice to do this? Oh, right, no, they don’t. (This farmer was also super helpful throughout the day and especially in getting me ready to leave at the end of the market. I love the community of small-scale farmers around here!)
The biggest mistakes I made for the Saturday market were harvesting too many veggies and not bringing enough beef roasts or chicken breasts to sell, all of which I should have predicted by watching the weather. I had a few other things on my mind when I was prepping for the farmers market, though, like taking care of the whole farm.
If I had to give myself a final exam grade for farmers markets, I get a B+. (All of my willing farmers marketeers and the kind farmers who helped me at the markets get A+!) For my farm-sitting week overall, I get a C, but that’s another blog entry altogether.