I worked at that same farmer’s market two years later and, overly emotional farmer-in-training that I was, I was only ever barely able to make it through without starting to cry: at the generosity of the stand next door who would give us their extra garlic scapes and shoo away our offer of yet another bag of salad mix, at the granola sellers who insisted I take some of their cardamom-ginger mix because they knew I’d be missing lunch in my rush to the train station that afternoon, and at all the customers, bougie or not, who valued food enough to buy it from the people who’d cared for it from planting to picking.
With the market closed for winter I’ve been going to Shaw’s (and it’s embarrassing how complacently I made that switch), though that’s closing, too — but that’s a problem for another post.
The New Haven farmer’s market was, when I worked there in the summer of 2007, a block-long Sunday afternoon affair remarkable mostly for its comprehensive simplicity. No more than two vendors sold the same items, but you could almost always find what you were looking for— pre-butchered meat or special order cuts, local oysters, coffee milk, raw milk, goat’s milk, vanilla yogurt, fresh bread, and vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. (Ok, I take that first part back: there were weeks in the high summer when it seemed like everyone had a couple of overgrown zucchini on the table in addition to whatever else they were hawking. Ours were so outsized that we gave them name placards: The Zucchini of Doom. I made a lot of zucchini bread that summer.)
I knew each of the vendors by name; our boss, Josh, had walked us through the market in May and talked us through each of their operations, their growing techniques and business plan. Then, of course, we all worked together, running up and down the row to find someone with change for a twenty, exchanging leftovers at the end of the day. I was particular friends with the men who worked at the berry and pie stall next to ours; they were forever giving me free jam and extra baskets of blueberries to snack on while we worked.
I rarely go to the LA farmers markets, in large part because I live at home and don’t cook much and am lazy. For a while we had a CSA share that was enough and more; now, I think, I’m just out of the habit. And while the markets here are truly gorgeous, stuffed with fresh produce even in the darkest months of winter, they are not the familiar community I had in New Haven. Actually, even that community has altered; when I was back just before leaving, as the market started up again in May, vendors had begun to double up on the block so that stalls faced one another. There were granola and fancy dog treats for sale. I bought a gallon of coffee milk from Trinity even though I knew I couldn’t finish it before graduation; it is one of my all time favorite things and I knew I probably wasn’t going to be able to find it again, wherever I ended up.