Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Market from Hell! yes I have a flare for the dramatic...

Bicycle farming in the city is a romantic notion.  We get to feel all warm and fuzzy about our low-carbon business, while getting exercise, interacting with our neighbors, and saving a bunch of money.  What you don't hear often (because I have a lot of pride and try not to complain too much) is that it's a lot of hard work and sometimes I just think we're totally crazy.

Saturday's market was one of those days.  We experienced the unfortunate timing of a couple inches of snow over night leaving a freshly laid blanket on all the streets when i left the house at 7am.  Detroit is notoriously bad at clearing streets and since it had just fallen and it was early on a Saturday, very few cars had come through to pack it down for me.  Needless to say the bike ride to market involved some walking while pushing my bike and trailer through the snow (imagine your grandpa's story about walking up hill through the snow both ways when he was young, except without the hills...God bless this flat land!).  And what is usually a 15 minute ride, turned into at least a half hour of walking and cautious riding (and a lot of cussing).

But I made it and was excited to start the market day because it was going to be Darryl's first time at Eastern Market with Rising Pheasant Farms.  Darryl, much to his credit, was on time despite the snow and very cold weather.  With the table set, we started taking out our beloved shoots to proudly display our hard work, when we noticed that a few of the bags seemed to have frost damage.  Sunshoots are very cold sensitive and will turn to mush if frozen (basically all the plant cells explode when they freeze!).  We had kept the shoots in the fridge in the farmhouse over night and I was worried that it would be too cold because the house isn't heated but i didn't follow my gut and now at least 1/5th of the shoots we brought were damaged.  So Darryl and I debated whether we should still sell them (at a discount) or just set them aside, which is tricky because we didn't have that many shoots to begin with and most of the damaged bags were at least 80% good still, but you don't want to sell low quality produce and have that reflect on your farm standards.  Ahhhh!

Alas, we did sell some of the damaged bags, until a not-to-be-named friend of ours accused us of  trying to sell him "a bag of mush" and we felt a bit ashamed and decided to pack up.  Oh and I forgot to mention that i had Finn with me (thankfully not on the "ride" to market) and we quickly discovered that it is a whole new ball game this year with the little guy.  No longer is he a calm passive observer happy to hangout in a backpack while Mama works.  No, this guy now has a mind of his own and was letting me and the rest of Shed 3 know it.  Finn proceeded to cry for much of the rest of market while we tried to pack up and get out of the shed (which is made difficult now that we're in this center stall instead of a normal stall...we have to weave through all the people with the bikes and trailers).

Ok we're on our way.  I'm pulling Finn, who is still crying (probably hungry and a little cold and just all around unpleased) and Darryl has the long trailer.  We head out and I'm going at a pretty good pace, motivated by my crying baby and a strong desire to be done for the day, and soon realize I've totally lost Darryl.  At that very moment I get a call from him saying he's had to stop because the hitch has come loose and it has caused one of his spokes on his back wheel to break.  Damn! so I bike back to where he's at and conveniently the size allen wrench he needs is being used to hold Finn's trailer to my bike.  We get Darryl hitch tightened (Finn is screaming his head off) and I take off as fast as I can.  I finally pull into the driveway, grab Finn and head inside to warm up, get some food and try to de-stress a bit.

"Well it can only get better from here" says Darryl when he arrives back at the house.  I sure hope he's right and I definitely appreciate his good that moment I was ready to throw in the towel.

So you might be it really worth it? And despite days like that (which are rare) I would answer with a resounding "Yes!".  As Jack likes to so often remind me, "No one said this was going to be easy". Sustainability and living a "green" life are so often romanticized, but when it comes down to it, its just a lot of hard work.  Prioritizing what is easy and convenient is what got people into this mess in the first place, the alternative will always be harder and less convenient.  Living a sustainable life is about prioritizing environmental, social and economic justice and no one said that was easy.