The view from the other side of the table

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I’ve had the great opportunity to see all sides of the market over the years.

I’ve been a board member of the Kingfield Farmers Market and Neighborhood Roots for almost ten years now. I’ve been a vendor at the market and worked the front greeter’s table. I’ve set up the market tents and I’ve seen the carnage of vegetables left over after a rainy Sunday market. But the one part I love the most is all of the great people.

I’m a people watcher. Come on, admit it, we all are. And there’s something that changes when you’re behind the table versus being a shopper. It’s like a force field that surrounds you and your product, or maybe it’s more like a club and you find yourself jockeying for a few brave members.

On busy days, the living is easy. Shoppers float with open bags and open minds as they crisscross the market. People like a busy market to get lost in; it’s sort of like crowd camouflage. And just like moths to a flame, they flock to the vendors.

On a slow or rainy days that 6-foot-by-2-foot plastic table can quickly start to feel like a 10-foot wall.

The first rule to go out the door is “don’t stare.” Nope, the eyes are the only way to say hello. So you find yourself like a crazy person breaking the fourth wall. You’ve been up since dawn, it’s freezing but yet you’ll be damned if you’re not gonna make a connection.

I don’t want to sound like we get desperate, but when you’re cold, wet or just bored a smile can feel better than a Hangover Hash.

Shoppers come in all varieties, too. A few of my favorites are the story collector, the magic middler and the bruncher — oh, and can’t forget the sampler.

The story collector makes a vendor’s job easy. They’re genuinely curious and love to ask questions. You’re bound to get a few of their personal chapters in too. The only problem is, as you while away the time your other customers slowly begin to pass you by. A few bold ones might try to interject, but the timid just keep moving.

The magic middlers are amazing. Like shopping spirits or ghosts they never seem to leave the center of the aisle. They avert any Jedi mind tricks: “Look over here … no, over here.” They shop with a surgical precision. Hovering in the middle while eyeing their targets, they are efficient and not prone to chitchat. I’m sure they end each day with completed “to-do lists” and well-behaved kids.

I personally fall into the bruncher crowd. No shame here, my family always shows up with the best intentions of buying up fresh veggies and making a perfect delicious and healthy dinner. But inevitably we are totally tempted by all the ready-to-eat goodies at the market. We sit in the café chairs and indulge ourselves, completely content with letting the world pass us by for a while.

The samplers are a hybrid group. They have the mind of a hunter and the appetite of a forager. Often, they’ll look for the moment when we’re occupied and swoop in, avoiding all eye contact. But when caught in the act, like a nervous child they become chatterboxes.

Note to samplers: We’re all really nice people and love to give away samples, so please keep up the good work!

So, the next time you’re at the market, think twice about that person on the other side of the table. Yup, they’re your local farmers or purveyor of fresh, fun products, but they’re also something more — another fellow human.


Jeff Berg lives with his family in Kingfield and has been a board member of the Kingfield Farmers Market and Neighborhood Roots since 2008 — at least! 

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