A Day at the Farmer’s Market

By M. J. Almdale

I made a quick trip to the farmer’s market in downtown Holland. It was a Wednesday, so not quite as busy as the packed-by-8:30 Saturday. I walked past the coffee stand run by my friend Jon and past the buckets of gladiolas on my left. On my right stood a table with fresh spinach and lettuce, and are those artichokes? I spotted the doughnut stand directly adjacent. (Who wouldn’t?)

It was only ten minutes past eight or so and musicians were beginning to set up. The cluster was a group of regulars— two guitars, a banjo, cello, and labd and ight voices. I walked by them and caught the eye of the cellist and smiled, she was a friend of mine.

I looked straight down the stretch and saw happy customers. Customers lifting fruit to smell for ripeness, kids eating raspberries out of wooden cartons, grandmothers lifting bouquets out of five-gallon buckets. People were inquisitive and hungry, interested. For myself (always hungry), I purchased bread and some flowers to use as a housewarming gift for a friend. I grabbed a cucumber and a pair of heirloom tomatoes, one green and one light red.

The tomato man knew each variety by heart and could tell me what they tasted like, which one had acid and which one didn’t. He couldn’t speak very well and walked with a cane. I held a yellow-and-green tomato up in my hand and smiled, saying, “They all look wonderful, but how ‘bout these?” and placed them in my cloth bag.

He fumbled, running a finger down a laminated price sheet. “Three…just three.”

I handed over a five and the lady next to him returned the change.

In my mind, I planned a cucumber, tomato and cream cheese sandwich. I imagined the aroma of cold rain in the room as I bit down on it.

The air felt damp that morning. I could smell earth and dirt as I walked down the street past each vendor. A farmer dressed in Wellies, a plaid shirt and brown pants passed me on my right.  I imagined saying to him: “Don’t you think it smells alive?” and I’d say it just as much with my hands, raising them as if trying to fume in the smell of green and fresh.He would nod and smile and wonder, most likely, if I was sane. If I’d steal a bunch of radishes when he wasn’t looking.

Imagining the interaction made me smile.

Sharing glances with people and nodding, the mood is transferred and acknowledged. We are here in part to observe community in action. We realize we’re not the only ones enjoying this outdoor, something-cool experience, the experience of buying local, buying from a community that you feel a part of. It’s a harvest of that which is closest to you. Tonot take it, to not purchase from community farmers— well that would be a waste, wouldn’t it?

My new goal— buy fresh and as close to the source as possible. Don’t waste what’s good— what’s been grown for real people.

From Earth to farmer, to baker, to market, and to my hands— to our hands.

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