Farmers markets are microcosms of what communities are or should be.
My son-in-law bakes wonderful pies and sells them at our local farmers market. I work his booth on Sundays, and I have yet to walk away from my day there without feeling more connected to my fellow human beings.
Pie in itself is a magnet for storytelling and reminiscing about family and friends at a shared table or picnic.
There is always someone who wanders over to see if we have a favorite flavor—like the one their grandma used to bring to holiday gatherings.
A lovely lady with blonde hair on the top half of her head and bright pink on the bottom half stopped by yesterday. I complimented her style. She rewarded me with a warm smile and hints on how I could recreate it for myself if I wanted. She selected a couple of pies, sharing that she was grateful to find something to share with her husband for dinner that would be delicious and require little effort on her part.
He is dying of cancer she explained, as big tear drops formed in the corners of her eyes. She had just quit her job to stay home and care for him. They were married for 25 years and she could not imagine what she was going to do without him.
A few others had gathered around her. I gave them a smile hoping to signal that I would be right with them but that it was important for this woman to finish telling her story. A serene woman with beautiful beaded braids stood to one side. She apologized for eavesdropping but said she was moved by the story and wanted to hear more. She offered this grieving woman some real time support, placing her arm around her and holding her as these strangers gave comfort to each other. Names and phone numbers were exchanged. Another paid for the pies for this lady. A plan was made to meet for coffee and continue to explore ways they could be of service. There were tears, but there were also smiles and laughter and hope as they all walked away.
A tall, lanky gentleman stopped by not long after that looking for my son-in-law. He wanted to express his thanks to him. It seems this man had gone by the pie kitchen to pick up some pies, accompanied by his young daughter who, by chance, loved to bake. She was given a tour of the facility, and the experience had solidified her desire to grow up to be a professional baker. He also shared that his father—the person the pies were purchased for—had wanted him to tell the baker that it was the absolute best savory pot pie he had ever had and he had eaten many pot pies. I promised to relay this, knowing that my son-in-law would be touched by the compliments.
A regular customer to our little stand stopped by to give me a slice of Salvadoran pizza. She had just tried it at another booth and knew I would love it. She had heard my tales of woe about needing to eat healthier and this was a gluten-free, vegan slice with fresh vegetables and herbs. I was so touched that she remembered our conversation and made this kind gesture.
The woman in the booth next to me was new to that spot. She was selling wonderful-smelling, handmade soaps and oils. I asked if she was new to the market. She explained that she was just new to that space. She had been selling her wares there since 2015. It was the community at this farmers market that had enabled her to open two brick and mortar stores. She still came every Sunday because she felt she owed it the people who supported her from the beginning.
I shared that my son-in-law was hoping to someday have his own bake shop. She offered some helpful advice tempered with a warning that owning a business like that was not for everyone. Patience and sacrifice and the will to see it through would be required.
A possibility of some new pie business was next in line. A repeat customer shared that he had recommended our pies to a local restaurant that had lost their pie supplier. He thought our products would be a perfect fit. The lovely business owner in the booth next to me smiles her knowing smile as if to say “see, this community will help you get to where you are going.”
My days at the market are filled with wonderful stories, laughter, and sharing.
The only thing close to a disagreement I have seen was at the end of my day. Two ladies showed up at the same time grabbing for my last key lime pie. One gave in to the other with little fuss and I offered to deliver a pie to the other later that day. They laughed at the silliness of it, shook hands, and walked away together.
My time at the market and the wonderful, thriving community that is there made me wonder why the world can’t be as kind, encouraging, and giving as my farmers market family.
We sometimes (actually, a lot of times) become overwhelmed and saddened by the current state of our world. There is little we can do about the big picture.
But if we break it down into small gestures, I believe we can feel more hopeful.
1. Start with yourself: What ways can you help? Choosing kindness and generosity; being supportive of your neighbors.
2. Your family circle: What can your family unit do? Find ways to live more sustainably; purchase wisely for your home, as in less plastic, more local products; creating an environment focusing on service to others.
3. Participating actively in your community: How can you show up for them? Volunteer; get to know your neighbors; participate in local happenings.
4. Thinking globally: How can you make a positive dent in the big picture? Share your successes; be a voice for those without one; start with yourself.
Now, gather up the family, grab your reusable grocery bags, get to your local farmers market, and change the world!
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