Saturday, 6:45 a.m. I pull into the parking lot of the Lake Harriet Methodist Church where our Fulton Farmers Market is held, waving to Lue of Yer Yang’s Produce and Moses of Dawn2Dusk Farm as I pass their parked trucks on the street. They wait patiently for the “go” signal from staff indicating that they can begin their set-up.
After Rebecca, our market manager, opens up our storage shed and breaker box, we huddle with our assistant market manager, Jess, to check in about last minute changes in vendor stall locations.
Todd cruises up on his bike, followed soon afterwards this morning by Christine. Now our Neighborhood Roots organization’s board chair, Todd has his hands plenty full with other market matters, yet he helps out with Saturday morning setup almost weekly. He calls it “addicting,” and often he’ll call his wife Lisa during a pause in our setup to coordinate their grocery list. “Hey hon, do we need bacon? I could pick up some tomatoes, too, and we could make BLTs to finish off our bread…”
A summer of family trips and kids off from school means that Christine has been volun- teering perhaps once a month for morning setup. We have been an ongoing recipient of her volun- teer efforts for years, and we are grateful for her and a mix of others’ setup and teardown help on a variety of different schedules.
We chat about their other plans for the weekend, and together we start carting our six market tents, 16 tables and 65-plus chairs across the parking lot while our vendors trickle in.
With vendors set up and our own market tents and tables in place, Todd and Christine each pick up a “Fulton Farmers Market / Open Today” sandwich board and coordinate which corners they’ll head to on 50th Street. Jess sets up our EBT and credit card readers, and we are officially open.
I spot Marsha weaving her way through the market with toddler Dalton in tow, letting kids and parents know that story time will be beginning shortly. Her husband, Doug, is the designated reader today. For three seasons, now, they’ve been volunteering to host Fulton’s story time and showing up to the market with an ever- changing selection of books, ready to read to a captive audience.
Nordis arrives, ready to prep samples of market products. Realtor Kamie Augustine of the Augustine Team, a sustaining market sponsor, is leading our kids craft for the day so Nordis has offered to serve up a “Taste of the Market” alongside them. As a member of our Fulton Operations Committee, Nordis meets monthly with Rebecca and a mix of board members and other volunteer committee members to offer input on our vendor selection, activities and outreach. We decide on samples of Sun Street bread with goat cheese from Singing Hills Dairy, and she sets about prepping bites and chatting with market-goers about recipe ideas.
Sasha, our board vice-chair, stops by the market on her way home from the park with her girls. Our monthly board meeting is coming up, so
I catch her up on the latest with our market bookkeeper transition and the updated insurance quote we recently received before she continues her rounds with the stroller.
Brett and Megan arrive for teardown and are curious to know how the market day has gone as we start to break down the chairs and tables. Megan helps out alternately with setup and teardown, while Brett serves on our Marketing & Development Committee. We pack up our storage shed and they head out, each with a handful of potatoes and peppers that Thao Farm has generously offered us.
Rebecca and I stash an extra cooler and our electrical cords in our cars before we say goodbye to Jess and head off in separate directions. Tomorrow, Sunday, is our Kingfield Market, and we’ll be doing it all again before long.
Want to join in the fun? I’ve come to think of farmers markets as miniature cities, with a lot of moving pieces behind the scenes and in need of many sets of hands to make them run. Our board elections are coming up in October, and our committee work is open to non-board members as well.
There’s still time to try your hand at set-up and tear-down, too; Kingfield and Fulton run through the end of October! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more, or say “Hi” to Rebecca, Jess and me any time at our market info booths. We look forward to meeting you.
Alexandra Cortes is the Executive Director of Neighborhood Roots. She has been growing with the markets since 2011.