We used to sell at farmers markets. It’s a great way for a new farmer to get started — you have a chance to see how other farms display their produce, which vegetables and varieties they choose to grow, how they interact with customers. Plus, being part of a farmers market offers the perfect opportunity to connect with other growers in the area. We continue to enjoy wonderful friendships to this day with some of the farmers we met back then. To be sure, the two years we attended the old Westlake Farmers Market, in particular, were invaluable.

More than eleven years have passed since we graduated to selling exclusively at our own two farm stands. Although the farmers market experience was a good one for us, we have no desire to go back. For one thing, at a farmers market you’re confined to a designated booth space. I can’t imagine trying to cram everything we bring to the stand into a 10 x 10 foot area.

Oh, I know there are ways to be creative, to tuck boxes aside and refill baskets as they empty. We’re just spoiled. We prefer to spread out.

There is one thing we miss out on, however, by not going to the farmers markets: the games. Games like watermelon seed spitting contests, carrot relay races, or designating a dress-like-your-dog day (or maybe that’s vice versa). The latest farmers market game I heard about involved stickers. Specifically, every customer who came to the market was given three stickers to pass out to their favorite farm. At the end of the day, the farmer with the most stickers plastered to his or her shirt won.

As it happened, one of our long-time farmer friends was the winner, which pleased me to no end — yet I couldn’t help but think back to when John and I were just getting started at the farmers markets ourselves. The Westlake market manager didn’t dream up games or other diversions, but had there been a contest like that when we were fresh-faced newbies, we would have undoubtedly ended up with the fewest stickers of all. I wondered if we might have felt a twinge of humiliation as a result. Because you know when there’s a winner, there’s also a loser.

Which is why, I suppose, the trend in recent years has been to crown everyone a winner. All the kids get trophies. Or if that were the case in the farmers market contest, stickers. Something like this.

Although maybe the everyone-wins solution isn’t happening so much now. I know that particular attempt to curb low self-esteem is being criticized of late. Perhaps rather than lumping everyone together, it’s best that each person instead be recognized for whatever skill or attribute they possess that sets them apart from the immediate crowd. Something that makes them unique.

The pride Mary’s feeling at this honor is almost palpable, isn’t it?

Recently, a new customer to visit our stand was curious as to why we prefer to abstain from the many farmers markets in the area. I gave her our standard reasons: space issues, freedom issues (if we sell out early, we’re not required to stick around until closing time with nothing on our tables), monetary issues (we pay no weekly booth fee), and set-in-our-ways issues (there’s no independent market manager telling us what to do).

There’s one more reason, though, that didn’t cross my mind at the time. It dawned on me several days later, as a matter of fact, when I learned of the sticker game at the farmers market.

If there’s ever a contest for most popular farm at one of our stands,

our odds of winning the prize might be pretty good.

* * *

We have some good news. We had feared that last Tuesday’s rainfall ruined all of our tomatoes, but we were wrong! Granted, we lost a lot of them to the rain and now this most recent deluge probably pretty much finished them off…but we were able to rescue a good deal of tomatoes before it happened. So for Wednesday’s stand we’ll have:

Tomatoes! (They won’t be as pretty and perfect as this photo taken earlier in the season — but they’re pretty enough and we thrilled to have ’em!) Plus lots of okra**; zucchini, Zephyr and yellow squash; sweet red Corno di Toro peppers; Cubanelle “frying” peppers; maybe red and yellow bells (depending on whether they’re ready for harvest by then); three varieties of eggplant; basil; some Chinese long beans; arugula; butternut squash from Sand Creek Farm; and Angel Valley honey (limit two jars per customer/family please!).

**Ever tried roasting okra? It’s great — and a perfect way to cook it for those picky eaters averse to okra’s “slime.” Stir the smaller pods, whole (don’t even cut off the caps), with some olive oil and salt & pepper. Spread the okra in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake either at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Deeeee-licious!

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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