It’s just a small-town farmer’s market.
There are thousands of them across the nation. For a few hours each weekend starting around Memorial Day and lasting well into the harvest season small vendor tents and plastic tables crop up in clusters like colorful mushrooms in the parking lots of churches, schools, and town centers. Like the return of hummingbirds and public pool signs, they are a welcome reminder that we made it through yet another winter and the hard work of summer’s bounty has just begun.
Ours is no different from any of the others – it’s just a small-town farmer’s market.
If you happen to find yourself driving along SR 93 and recognize a strong desire for a tomato, bacon, and mayo sandwich (on lightly toasted and preferably homemade bread, of course) you could stop by the Fresno Farmer’s Market on any given summer Saturday. You could visit nearly any of the local growers set up in the lot of the Bible Church and stay just long enough select the perfect beefsteak tomato, then hit the road to your final destination where you’ll turn that ripe red gem into a masterpiece of summer culinary perfection.
If you stay a little longer, you’ll discover more than the main event of your afternoon dinner. Just a few minutes of browsing and you’ll find orchard ripe peaches, handmade crafts, decadent jams, and desserts just like mom used to make. Ever tried a fried egg on your tomato bacon sandwich? You can thank me later, for now you’ll find those nutrient-dense farm-raised eggs at our little market also. All summer long. Chickens are handy that way.
But hang on just a few more minutes and you’ll notice something magical in the air. It isn’t obvious, that’s why you’re going to need to slow down a few minutes to hear it. It’s subtle, but it’s not uncommon. In fact, it happens every Saturday at our small-town farmer’s market.
It has nothing to do with produce and everything to do with people.
See, that’s what makes our small-town farmer’s market special. It’s the same ingredient that makes any small town anything special.
It’s at our market where neighbors – some emerging for the first time since last fall – gather to hear about what’s happening in their world. It’s where a local man (we’ll call him Jim) learns that early in the winter his third grade teacher (we’ll call her Judy) took a fall, and while she’s recovering she really doesn’t have her feet under her enough to handle the things that need doing. He’ll send his boy over this afternoon to mow her lawn for her. He’ll be back the same time the following week and each one after that until she’s strong enough to do it herself. That’s what neighbors do.
It’s where Lisa shares the needs of a new family in town. The father is down on his luck and looking for work, but David’s boy AJ is off to college and that leaves his farm short on help. Later he’ll stop by the modest rental in town and offer the father of three a job. That’s what neighbors do, even when the neighbors are new.
It’s where we all learn Mrs. Anderson’s youngest has decided to head off to the military. He’ll leave next month, and all can agree it’s the best for him. If he stuck around here he’d just find more trouble. We’ll have a small send off for him in a couple of weeks to show our support and gratitude while he carries on a family tradition – his daddy and granddaddy would have been proud.
It's where we also learn Mr. Peterson won’t be seen at our little market this year. He and his wife both lost their battle against the virus a few months back, leaving this world just moments apart, holding hands in a little room in the ICU. We will miss his cheesy jokes. Some will tell stories in his honor. At least a couple of those will be true.
Last season I was struck by how much I learned about my neighbors each Saturday morning. Folks I’ve never met stopped by because they know my parents (turns out I look a little bit like them so I get a lot of “hey are you…?” Yup, I am). I thought I was there to sell eggs and tomatoes, instead I was sucked into the sweetest impromptu community reunion. The kind you’ll only ever find in an American small town. As people milled around grappling with growing bags of produce it was clear many were holding onto something much more precious – each other.
You’ve probably heard more than a few times lately that this world is getting to be a pretty ugly place. It’s spinning too fast and people are falling off, so to speak. I don’t disagree that if you’re looking for something to bring you down you’re going to find it, and plenty of it. I would argue though that there is more good happening in the world, yes even today, than what your TV is willing to tell you.
If you want to see it first hand (and I highly recommend that you do), stop by our small-town farmer’s market some Saturday this summer. We set up Saturday mornings from 8-11am at the Fresno Bible Church on SR 93, just south of town. If you’re of the generation that fondly remembers such things you might know that stretch of road as “the east end drag strip”. Things are a little slower on that stretch of road these days, but that’s not a bad thing. Seems to me slowing down long enough to pick out the perfect tomato might be just what this world needs more of.
It's just a small-town farmer’s market, but if you take a moment to take it all in you’ll find that it is oh so much more. Some people would tell you it’s part of the good stuff that makes America a great place to live. That would be me… I’m “some people”. When you stop by this summer I’ll introduce you to some more of those people.
Then you can go home and make your sandwich, sit in the sun sipping sweet tea, and listen to the sounds of a more grounded world. Even if it's just for a moment.
We’re just a small-town farmer’s market, but we’ll be here when you need us.
PS~ while the names and stories mentioned here are completely made up, the sentiment is genuine, and who knows… some of them may be closer to the truth than we think.
Tucker (pomeranian) is an author of marginal famou'nicity. Catch his Tucker Tuesday farm pupdates here and on the Toby Way Farm facebook page.