Sunday, July 13, 2008
Elements of a Farmer's Market
One of the things I love most about the Allen St. Farmer's Market is the way it has been designed as a part of the community around it. Not only does it feature local farmers selling only their own produce, local restaurants and "local folks" who make anything from soaps to dessert sauces to t-shirts, but the market was created and is maintained by people who live, for the most part, on the Eastside. Since the Allen Neighborhood Center is a non-profit, finding volunteers is an important part of the mix in order to keep things running smoothly. Volunteers like myself show up each week for the market and make sure that tents are up, signs are out, and everything is where it should be. We then make everyone coming to the market feel welcome, answering any questions and trying to communicate why, exactly, this market is so special. Easier said than done, almost— in my case, I'm there from set-up to tear-down every Wednesday and it is hopefully apparent to people who see my week after week, no matter what time it is, smiling away from my post by the front gate or taking pictures as I wander from tent to tent.
The class I took this spring that had me involved in "pre-season" market activities allowed me to get involved in the market in different ways. One of the things we did was create flags that ring the parking lot on market days, an eye-catching and beautiful sight. It was not just my small class of four who made the flags, however. A lot of people contributed many different talents to make these flags happen.
Everything from securing materials to cutting and sewing the flags, to painting them and making sure they're hung out for every market needed to be taken into consideration. Most people had very little practice in the artistic department, and needed help with ideas for what would make an appropriate flag for a farmer's market. In my case, not having picked up a paintbrush since probably the 5th grade didn't seem to hinder my attempts, to my great surprise.
One of the best things about the creative process was the range of talents contributing. From young to old, artistic to "two left hands," volunteer to staff members... we asked anyone who came through the door of the Center to help us make flags.
The picture below is one of my favorites. In it you can see, clockwise from left, Professor Laura DeLind, AmeriCorps VISTA Franny, an Eastside resident, and one of my classmates in the RCAH Jesseca. In my mind that photo sums up the connections between the neighborhood, the community, the university, and people which allows the Center to function.
In the end, each flag symbolized what we found to be important about the farmer's market, food, and our relation to it. The colors are crazy, the lines aren't perfect, and some of the vegetables are a little hard to discern. But when they're all up and flying on a hot, windy market day, wow. It's exactly what we hoped for.