Blooming azaleas, dogwoods, green stuff sprouting all over my front and back yard...and the pollen that goes with all of the above. Makes me think I must be looking at life through greenish yellow lenses, not those rose colored ones I am used to. The birds are chirping madly, the weather has been so pleasant for my morning coffee on the front porch, letting the dog greet all of the folks strolling down my Southside street.
But the one thing that really made me think that Spring is upon us was the final rush of planning for the opening day of Pepper Place Saturday Market on Saturday, April 14. Confirming the lists of farmers, artists, the musicians, and making up all of the maps of where the tents are located...all of that has to be done and the Market office is in a frenzy of details. New tents have to be bought, new tables to replace the ones we have finally worn out after using them every weekend for over 10 years. All of the equipment had to be brought out and dusted off, checked out, repaired as needed. A farmers market seems simple, but it really is a mass of details that come together each Saturday.
Now seems a good
time to introduce the staff behind the market.
The wizard behind that mass of details is Lisa, the Market Director for
the last several years. She is truly
amazing, making it look simple, out there at 5 am making sure that it all gets
set up correctly, remembering all of up to 100 vendors, their names, their
kids, and every spring recreating the special atmosphere that is the Saturday
Market. There are always the same solid
regular vendors, but every year there are some changes that have to be made...vendors who change schedules, change products, and some sadly
who go out of business or have those life changes that affect all of us. So we miss our friends who don't return, and
welcome the new ones we make every year; just as we welcome the variety of
produce that comes and goes with the season.
The other behind the scenes team is Quint and his crew, who get out there between 3 and 4 every Saturday morning, moving in the tents and tables, setting them up in their proper locations, because the farmers and other vendors start showing up as early as 5 am to get their trucks in place and start setting up the beautiful displays of fruits, vegetables, flowers and art that make the market special. And then at 12 noon, it all has to be taken down again, and the streets and parking lots put back as they were. The tents and tables all put down and stored, ready to pop up the next weekend.
The farmers have been working on getting ready, getting the their fields ready, planting seeds, seedlings, fertilizing, irrigating, watching the weather, doing all of those things that farmers have to do to grow the food that we get to buy and enjoy at the market. Depending on the weather, we will see all sorts of herbs, tender spring lettuces, lots of bedding plants, maybe even some early strawberries, never better than when picked sweet and fresh. Personally I will put some of those strawberries over some greek style yogurt, maybe sprinkled with a little sugar if needed, or if a special occasion comes along, I might just layer them with some lady fingers, sponge or pound cake, some custard or whipped cream and make that quintessential English dessert, a strawberry trifle. Especially if you macerate the strawberries in some sugar so they give off a little liquid that you can mix with some dry sherry and drizzle over the cake layers. Let it set up for a few hours in the refrigerator, and enjoy!
The benevolent landlord of Pepper Place is Sloss Real Estate, where Cathy Crenshaw, her amazing assistant Wanda and other staff are the umbrella under which the Market operates. They work year round to make sure that all of the legal and financial details are covered that make the Pepper Place Market possible. This past Saturday Cathy missed the market, but she had an acceptable excuse as she was getting married that day.
We are always looking for volunteers to help us on the information tent, to help our patrons find what they need. We are working on developing a Friends of the Market organization to help support the Market. The Market looks very prosperous, full every weekend, but it costs quite a bit to put it on, and to keep the costs down for our farmers, we depend on sponsors to supplement the fees we collect each week. We hope that you take notice of those sponsors and thank them for helping to bring a special market to you every Saturday. We thank you for your support of the market and of the farmers and vendors and look forward to a great season of awesome fruits and vegetables. We also have some special events coming up, and we will keep you informed about those through our e-newsletter and with more information at our website pepperplacemarket.com.
Personally, I have been getting all of my bandanas ready, my market tee shirts clean, and I hope that you all have been getting ready for the market, cleaning up your canvas bags for produce, because it is you, the customers, that really make the market special!
See you on Saturdays till autumn has come and gone!