Commuting to the Land of Our People
This past weekend we added the University District Farmer's Market in Seattle to our schedule. The market is about an hour and half drive for us, but, because of it's higher traffic, is worth it.
That morning we woke up at 4 am to milk goats and load coolers before getting on the road. Neither one of our children were very impressed with the early hour but that's the burden of being a farm kid I suppose.
On the drive up there were, not surprisingly, not that many cars. Saturday morning at 6 am isn't a heavy traffic time. I didn't think anything of it until we passed another truck, a lot like ours, with the name of a farm on the side door.
And then it hit me.
Everywhere, all across the country, farmers are waking up before the sun on Saturday mornings, doing their daily chores, and then packing product into their vehicles to commute to big cities. New York City, San Francisco, Seattle...I'm sure it's all the same.
There's something kind of beautiful and romantic about being part of that.
I've been an outsider my entire life. As a military kid we moved around a lot, on average every two years. My brother and I were always the new kids. When I went to the Air Force Academy and later commissioned into the Air Force I stood out as someone who was probably a little too enthusiastic, too perky, and definitely too into pink. Even now when people find out I served in the Air Force and deployed to Iraq it's a shock. As a corporate employee I'm positive that my co-workers and boss aren't totally sure what to think of me.
But here, in the land of farmer's markets that Matthew and I have found ourselves in, I am among my people.
A fellow vendor stopped at our booth to buy cheese and I commented on her hands. They looked a lot like my hands. Strong, capable, calloused. But neat and clean. Short fingernails and no polish. She laughed. "I was up stuffing sausage until 1 am last night," she said. "My hands are tired."
I laughed too.
I didn't need to say anything else. I got it. I'm fairly certain she knew that I got it too.
Because these are our people. Many of the farmers at the markets we work are young, like us (side note: I still think I'm young, like college kids, but my 33 year old body is starting to disagree). It's refreshing to see, especially in lieu of all the articles I find about farming being a dying profession. And it's even more amazing when you consider, every single booth at a farmer's market is a store front. We are all small business owner entrepreneurs.
And the patrons, the amazing, wonderful, beautiful souls who choose to shop at farmer's markets, they are our people too. They may not be waking up with us in the early hours of the morning but they are there, when the bell rings to announce that it's legal to sell, to spend their hard earned money on local farms.
The other day a little girl came running up to our booth with her mother. She couldn't have been more than five. I immediately recognized her as a repeat customer.
"Would you like to try a sample?" I asked.
"No thank you," she said, "I know what I want."
And she did. One honey vanilla chevre. It's a little concoction we dreamed up in an effort to reduce some of our own daughter's dependence on store bought yogurt. The only thing we add is local raw honey and organic vanilla. But, it is decadent. Sandwiched on strawberries it turns into cheesecake. On crepes it can replace whipped cream. On crackers it's smooth and creamy. And right out of the package. Yeah, it's good that way too. I was so happy this little girl agreed.
"She's been looking forward to coming here all week," her mother told me.
Yep. She's our people too. A little girl who is excited about food. No dye, no chemicals, no gimmicks. Just real food.
When I met Matthew I found my person. He is quirkier, odder, and delightfully stranger than I am. The first time he kissed me I felt homesick.
When I worked my first farmer's market, the sweat and hustle so thick you could cut it with a knife, I felt the sense of belonging and understanding you only get from being with people who share the same lifestyle as you.
And when I sold my first package of cheese to a repeat customer the feeling was overwhelming. The hope and pride that we allow ourselves to feel every once in awhile when we think that maybe, just maybe, we've found the land of our people and they're just as happy about it as we are.