I lived in Portland last year, where the farmer’s markets are gold mines in the city. SW Missouri’s are a bit more modest, and don’t seem to draw the crowds from rural counties the way urban farmer’s markets do. It’s all too familiar, perhaps. People work the land so close and hard it hits them upside the head every single day. And with these sweaty, muggy summer months (already!), I can sympathize with the temptation toward air-conditioned superstores.
But I went up to the Webb City Farmer’s Market yesterday anyway. They host in a covered shed off the park on Main Street, live music and a buffet at one end, sellers on the other. It’s bustling but anonymous — most vendors are just polite enough to offer broad grins as they take your money. And that’s okay. I’m a touch shy myself.
So I walked around, smiled at people who smiled first, hopeful, waiting. I have no system to picking produce. I barely know how to tell good lettuce from bad other than that it’s not rotten.
There’s a stand with an old man and woman who bag their mixed lettuces and spinach so beautifully that they look like bouquets, so I always buy from them.
And a fellow with creaking joints and white hair who bunches his garlic in clusters as big as your fist.
And two little girls who sell their dad’s baguettes.
The people who charm me, that’s where I buy. I am easily seduced by friendliness. In my head, I take notes. Imagine what my own little vendor stand might look like. Imagine shaking hands and taking change, passing over food I grew (holy miracle!) to feed a real live person right in my own neighborhood.
It’s hard to believe. But miracles happen.