To Market, to Market
Thursdays and Fridays are long days on the farm – I wake early to beat the sun; I must water before the rays burn the wet foliage. I’m thankful that the October sun is slow in rising and that the rain has taken over my watering job. But then it’s on to harvesting: we must pick the kale, collards, chard, cucumbers, hot peppers, okra, eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes, herbs, zinnias and sunflowers to sell at market on these days. I snip greens, pull a rubber band off my wrist and bundle the leaves in tens. I search under the leaning eggplants for the too-heavy fruits, and scan the zucchini plants from every direction to look for the one zucchini that is always hiding. I breathe in the fragrance of freshly cut basil and cilantro, and smile at the rainbow of zinnias packed together in a bucket. Finally, it’s off to market.
When I started work at The Pittsburgh Project I was wary of the Farm Stand. I thought I wouldn’t like it because maybe I’m too reserved. I’ve found out that I actually love selling produce and serving our neighbors. Though the work on Farm Stand days lasts more than 10 hours, I love it. A quiet start on the farm, the rush to set up the stand, the bright colors of fresh produce displayed, greeting our regular customers, answering the inquiries of “drive by” customers, trying to serve customers faster than they accumulate, playfully convincing neighbors of the quality of the produce, conversations with co-workers and neighbors in the lulls – all of these make Thursdays and Fridays my favorite days of the week. The satisfaction of seeing a seed turn into food is great, and the community that builds around the stand each week only makes it greater.
I’ve used many words. These pictures will give you a better vision:
At last, it’s time to start closing for the day – my mind can add no more columns of numbers and my feet are asking me to sit. We take signs down and pack produce into boxes. The inevitable last customers drive by just needing that bunch of greens or head of cabbage for the weekend, and we search the boxes for what they want. Eventually tables, baskets, food and tent is packed into the ancient cargo van and we take it all back to where it came from, waiting for yet another week of Farm Stand.
[Note: The Pittsburgh Project partners with the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank to run the Farm Stand. We order local produce through the Food Bank to augment what we grow at the farm. Eatin’ Park and other organizations subsidize prices on the food so that we can offer local produce (and organic if we grow it) at affordable prices for our neighbors. We purposely set up the stand in our neighborhood, which is considered a “food desert” (where healthy, affordable food is lacking) on days when we are not selling. On Fridays we set up outside an apartment building which is home to many senior citizens who receive government farm market vouchers. This gives them easy access to fruits and vegetables they wouldn’t otherwise have.]