Insider's Guide to Farmers Markets

August 11, 2010

I’m off getting married and honeymooning and all that so, in my absence, some good friends are filling in. Today’s look at San Francisco Bay Area farmers markets comes from Sampada Aranke.

I’m coming up on my four-year anniversary working for a small organic farm out of Watsonville California — four years of working farmer’s markets all over the Bay Area where buying local and organic is not only incredibly sexy but, with more than 40 markets a week, incredibly easy.

There is a kind of solidarity between farmers and vendors who painstakingly begin their Saturdays and Sundays around 4 a.m. in order to get their loyal customers their produce for the week.  If it wasn’t for our gracious and generous customers, not only would we be unable to stay afloat, but we wouldn’t have the pleasure to make meaningful relationships with communities all over the Bay Area.  This is definitely the greatest part of the job.

I have had the pleasure to work at some of the most successful and reputable markets in the Bay, all of which have blessed me with an abundant archive of some of the best (or is it some of the worst?) tales on the market scene.  As a result, I’ve decided to share what might be considered the top five farmer’s market faux pas.  Consider this a glimpse into the hall of fame that canonized some notorious customers.

1.  Bag offenders beware: using a separate plastic bag for each piece of produce really cancels out any good you might be doing for the planet by buying local and organic.  I’m sure your tomatoes, onions, and basil can share the same plastic haven for the ride home.

2.  If you show up to shop three minutes before the market ends, don’t tell the folks working that it’s because you had to sleep in.  They probably had to get up at the crack of dawn and are definitely more annoyed with you now than when you first showed up.

3.  Every box or crate in the stand is not your own personal trash can.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve turned around to re-stock some fresh sugar snap peas or little gem lettuce, only to find someone’s half-filled coffee cup, used tissue, and recently sampled orange rind in the box.  Gross. Gross. Gross.

4.  Runners:  please don’t take your money out of the inner lining of your running shorts to pay for your fruits and veggies.  No body wants to be given junk-sweat-dollars in exchange for some fresh, golden produce—no matter how bad the economy is.

5. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids—but stroller island in the middle of the stand is really annoying, especially when the kids are storming every piece of produce on the table and stuffing it in their mouths.  Stroller island should at least be filled with kids in strollers.  Oh yeah, and asking the vendors where your baby ran away to when you were picking out potatoes is a good indication that, maybe next time, you should strap in that little ball of cute …

Sampada Aranke is currently a graduate student in Performance Studies at the University of California, Davis.  Her research looks at the intersection between corpses and corporeality in contemporary black life in the United States.  When she is not reading and writing, she works farmers markets, rides her bike, and karaokes with her fellow farmers.