We remember more clearly now why we’ve consistently turned down invitations to join farmers markets. Beside the fact that those invitations come with a catch — we’d have to pay for the privilege of selling at a big market — we’ve become spoiled through the years and have found that the one-on-one relationship we have with our customers is a perfect fit for us.

Which is why, when the Jonestown Street Festival set up all around us last Saturday, we were a little discombobulated. For one thing, when we arrived to set up our market tables that morning we discovered that in a fit of truly bizarre planning, someone had instructed the Steam Punks to set up their booth directly beside us.

We have nothing against Steam Punks. Heck, we didn’t even know what a Steam Punk was until this turn of events. All we knew was that post-apocalyptic gear like goggles, gas masks and tricked out rifles seemed a tad at odds with fresh organic vegetables.

Or perhaps we were too quick to judge. These folks may be futuristic, but they have to eat…don’t they?

Whatever the seating arrangement, it really matters not. We will always prefer having the place to ourselves. Don’t get me wrong. Our intention isn’t to be piggish. It’s just that during festivals like this one, there are more “lookers” than actual buyers — people who exclaim, “Oh what beautiful produce!” as they rush by our tables to ogle the Steam Punks, window shop the jewelry booths, then ultimately partake in a fried turkey leg. And while random compliments about our vegetables are lovely, polite comments don’t pay the bills.

A true farmers market is a different animal than a street festival, of course, yet running a single farm stand is different still. Like most new farmers, when we started out thirteen years ago we sold at a farmers market. I remember well the first day we set up: we had green onions, new potatoes and chard. We could get away with it back then, since there were many growers at the market selling a variety of vegetables to round out the customers’ shopping experience.

Imagine if we offered only those three things at our farm stands now. I suspect we wouldn’t see a whole lot of traffic.

So instead, although there’s no avoiding the ebb and flow of produce from season to season, we work hard to have as large a selection as the particular time of year allows. We must keep it interesting enough for people to make that special trip because when folks visit one of our stands, it’s expressly for our produce. We like it this way. I guess that kind of makes us control freaks, doesn’t it?

Too bad we can’t control everything. If we could, the chickens wouldn’t be suffering their current confinement.

See, a fox has discovered them. Coincidently, only days after a farmer friend told us she’d lost nearly a dozen chickens to foxes, John happened to walk out the back door right at the moment Miss Wattles began to scream. Thank goodness the fox had grabbed her only seconds before John overheard the scuffle, and he was able to save her.

Whew. We love Miss Wattles. Truthfully, she’s never been the best laying hen in the world — in fact, she’s more of a poser than a layer — but her routine is so cute. As soon as one of the other girls grants us the gift of a freshly laid egg, and before we’re able to snatch it out of the nest box, Miss Wattles quickly jumps on top of it and sits proudly upon that never-to-be-hatched babe as if it had been her doing.

We let her enjoy her the fantasy. When she eventually gets back up she seems so sure she’s fooled us, it’d be a shame to let on.

The greater shame is that we can’t allow the chickens out of their run for a while. Not that they’re overcrowded. Heavens no. Our eight hens live in a veritable palace compared to probably 99 percent of the chickens in this country.

Not only do they have one fine henhouse, but their fenced-in area is downright park-like with its ample shade trees, places for respite from the sunny afternoon spots where they take their daily dust baths. Really, these chickens have it pretty darned cushy.

Still, they’d prefer to be free.

As long as we keep spotting that fox around the house, however, the hens will remain imprisoned. Some farmers would probably take aim at the predator with a shotgun, and I’ll admit that Farmer John carried a loaded one outside the last time we saw the fox. But his intention was only to scare it, not to shoot it. John’s too much of a softy to kill a beautiful animal like that.

Bet this guy would do it though.

Unless, like Miss Wattles, he’s just a poser too.

* * *

We have a great selection this week! For Wednesday’s stand (where we’ll be set up all by ourselves!) we’ll be bringing:

Lots of spinach! as well as lettuce mix; Euro salad mix (French lettuces, curly cress, baby chicories and arugula); Purple and Golden beets; “bunching” green onions; Brussels greens; beautiful chard; bunches of Asian mustard greens; summer squash — zucchini, Zephyr, yellow squash and Cousa; bags of arugula; bunches of pink radishes; three varieties of eggplant; and bell peppers.

Thanks!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)

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