If you’ve ever wondered what all goes into one of your favorite weekend pastimes, the farmer’s market, you can begin this conceptual journey mid-week, Wednesday or Thursday, thereabouts. This is when the Elmwood Stock Farm farmer’s market team meets, discusses the good, bad and ugly from the weekend before, and plans for the weekend ahead. We discuss vegetable availability with the harvest team, who then spends Thursday and Friday picking, washing, and packing for Saturday and Sunday delights. Friday is spent stocking up the meat coolers, packing the van with tables, apple crates, and the myriad of other booth-building necessities, and preparing pre-orders for customers who have planned ahead.
Friday evenings at my house up in Corinth, the dog gets only a short hike when I get home, because I like to be snoozing by at least 9pm. In the summer, the soft chime of my alarm rustles me awake at 3:45am. Winter is more like 5:00am, what I consider “sleeping in” for a Saturday morning.
Once I’ve made my way to the farm, loading takes a half hour to 45 minutes, depending on the season. Mac spent many early Saturday mornings teaching me the art of van packing, how to distribute weight here, wedge something else there, and strap this like that. In the summer, tomatoes are stacked in trays up to the ceiling of the 6 foot van bed. CSA boxes are stacked cleverly in all the nooks and crannies, yet still safe from toppling. Berries always make their way on top of the Tetris of boxes, crates, and coolers, so as to not crush their delicate forms. It’s amazing how much can be crammed into these trusty ol’ sprinter vans!
Our trip to the Lexington Farmers Market (LFM) on Saturdays is a short 20 minutes, a breeze compared to many other vendors who travel from several counties away to bring you their bounty. Sunday market workers see much more pavement, heading 1.5 hours up to Cincinnati’s Hyde Park Farmers’ Market.
At LFM, we’re usually one of the first vendors there at 6:30am. Over the next hour and a half, we’re slogging out tables, crates full of bags and baskets and cloths and jars, yellow tubs of all sorts of greens and root vegetables, baskets of potatoes, onions and squash, trays of tomatoes big and small, throwing up signs, balancing shelves, troubleshooting the iPad to prepare for transactions, and preparing the surplus for easy restocking during the hectic hours.
I like the early morning peace I feel before the rush of customers, when the sun is rising over Lexington’s downtown buildings and the sky gently turns from deep indigo to blush pink to cool sky blue. It reminds me to take a big deep breath before the next 6 hours of hustle.
And then comes the part of market you all know and love, 8:00am open! I love seeing my regular market goers, who faithfully make a weekly trip out to buy at least one item every time from our booth, a moment of connection and gratitude I always treasure.
I also love newcomers too, who ask lots of questions with an open mind and fervent curiosity; even if they don’t purchase anything, I love the opportunity to educate and invite anyone to learn about what we do at Elmwood and why growing healthy, organic vegetables and grass-fed meats are important to us.
At closing hour, we wipe our brows a time or two, and repeat the same process as arrival, but in reverse—everything goes back into the van, hopefully leaving with a lot less produce and meat than what we came with!
Back at the farm, I do a half unload—anything perishable goes back to coolers and freezers, but most of the infrastructure stays in the van, ready for Sunday market. With the help of a few co-workers, we restock and replenish what has diminished in baskets, crates, and meat coolers so that Sunday can have an equally abundant offering.
And so, the process repeats on Sunday for the Hyde Park Farmers’ Market, always a fun day with its neighborhood feel. Monday, the van finally gets fully unloaded and readied for a week of delivering our fresh produce and meats to people around the area.
Then a few days later, we’re back at it again, bringing our weekend market customers great tasting food with integrity. Hope to see you there! —Mackenzie