Last Thursday was a hard day at the Farmers’ Market. In record-breaking heat, we got up and out before dawn to harvest for the afternoon market before it got too hot to pick vegetables. Usually we get a good chunk of preparation done the night before, but this week we had spent Wednesday night up until 11 pm unexpectedly butchering meat chickens, instead of prepping for market. They had begun to fail to tolerate the heat wave, and we we lost three of them to it before realizing we just had to butcher them early. (At least, they have gone to a much cooler place now, relocated to the basement freezer!)
So by the time we arrived at the market, we were already well on the way to exhaustion, overheating, and in my case, salt imbalance from chugging enormous amounts of water, sweating a lot, and eating very little. The vegetables and herbs were difficult to keep fresh, wilting and heating up no matter the best planned attempts to keep them cool. The pavement was too hot to set the coolers on when we arrived, and one of them toppled from its stack, breaking some egg dozens. The first potential client of the day, arriving before we’d finished setting up, became fairly disgusted upon hearing the price of a bunch of our basil. After shaking his head and making some unpleasant comments, he moved on, but only to return shortly, brandishing a large bag of basil at me, and testily telling me that “THIS is a dollar’s worth of basil!!” I made an unfortunate comment about anybody being able to go pick basil for themselves in 90 degree heat if they preferred, and we went our separate ways.
Sometimes the pricing issues of being a farmer are so saddening and disheartening I wonder, “Why are we doing this to ourselves?”
But that low point was immediately balanced by a glowing new client who had just discovered us and the Westside Farmers Market on the web, and was really excited about it. Infectiously excited and happy about it, and eager to try our produce. It was a pleasure to talk with him about how we grow our food, ways to cook it, and so forth. We were so happy and smiling over someone else’s pleasure and interest, and I thought “This is why we do this…”
One of the few greens I had at the market that day were lamb’s quarters. Lamb’s quarters this past week sprang up heartily and greenly with new young growth in some of the replanted beds, and looked too perfect not to take along to market in glorious bunches. Weeks ago when we had fresh spring growth of lamb’s quarters for sale, a number of people in-the-know bought them, and one customer actually squealed, “Oh you have lamb’s quarters! I’m so excited!” The next week she brought by a copy of Linda Diane Feldt’s wonderful book, Spinach and Beyond, just to make sure I knew about it. She was so thrilled that a farmer understood, and harvested and used lamb’s quarters.
But this week the lamb’s quarters did not get such a good reception. Three people insinuated there was something underhanded about trying to sell weeds, and looked at me with a “gotcha” kind of look, satisfied at having identified a fraud. One spent a good bit of time talking about how she weeded those out of her garden and wouldn’t imagine eating them, because, well, they’re weeds. Often times these are great moments to talk a little, educate people a little. But the heat must have been getting to everyone, because on this day, people’s responses mostly left me feeling like they thought we were trying to fleece them with the lamb’s quarters somehow (heheheh…I really didn’t intend that pun). My descriptions of using lamb’s quarters in place of spinach, and claims that the flavor is really very mild, just brought uneasy looks and sidling away from the table.
So, deflated, and feeling rebuked for trying to market something that I hadn’t intentionally planted (therefore a weed), I browsed through some other farmer’s blogs for inspiration and healing. El at Fast Grow the Weeds came through for me as always, and I felt relief flood me as I discovered that her current post is devoted to “eating one’s weeds” in the form of purslane gazpacho, and (gasp…wait for it…) ….lamb’s quarters with pasta. El, I love you.
(Just for fun, here’s another lamb’s quarters recipe link, whose writer begins with with the line, “Now that I’ve discovered them, I may never go back to spinach.”)
And just for closure… later on that market day, a beautiful smiling happy-faced woman asked if we could arrange for me to provide the flowers for her wedding in a few weeks, because she liked our cut flowers so much. Another little high point, a little affirmation that this is the right path, that there are people out there who put wildflowers on the tables at their weddings, who eat the weeds, who see the value.
Thanks everyone, regardless of your political views on weeds and the true cost of food, for coming to see us in the 100 degree heat last Thursday!