My Morning Market

5am – The alarm goes off and I’m out of bed immediately, even if I still feel half asleep. There may be time to snooze on the weekdays, but on Saturdays, I have roughly 20 minutes get dressed, make and gulp down some coffee and eat a bite of toast.

I obsessively watch Nextbus while I’m getting ready in case there’s an unexpected change in the MUNI predictions (changes are common this early in the morning; sadly it’s too early for BART). I run out into the dark, damp streets to catch the train.

5:25am – Instead of a J Church rumbling down Church Street, it’s an N Judah to Ocean Beach. The underground tunnel that goes downtown isn’t open this early in the morning, so the train runs the J Church line to Duboce where it run the above-ground portion of the N Judah route out to the ocean.

I’m usually the only person on the train and because there’s no one at any of the stops, the trip to Church and Market goes quickly.

5:40am – I wait for the L Owl bus to take me down to the Embarcadero. The bus is surprisingly crowded and I stand. Oddly, Van Ness seems to be the most popular stop and I wonder where these people are going on Van Ness this early in the morning.

5:55 am – A handful of growers have their stands set up already by the time I arrive at the ferry building. If I’m early, I go inside the ferry building. It will be jammed full of tourists later, but it’s deserted this early in the morning and it smells like cinnamon.

6am – The van arrives and Michael is there to help unload. I don’t know what Michael’s story is, but he’s there reliably every Saturday to help us unload and set up. I have a feeling he’s done this every Saturday for years.

We unload quickly. It feels a little like we’re racing to get it all unpacked as quickly as possible. There’s reason to hurry, though; we have to get set up and out of the way so the next farmer can pull get set up.

There’s lots of unload, too — not just the flowers and apples we’ll be selling, but everything we might need for the day: two tents, four tables, two scales; a big signs with the name of the farm and a bucket full of little different signs listing the price and the variety of flower or apple; a copy of the farm’s organic certification, change, aprons, bio-bags, a receipt book for the restaurants that pick up their orders at the market and a pen to fill in what they bought; two rolls of paper for wrapping the flowers, two pairs of clippers so we can trim the ends to the length a customer wants; bungee cords and a weight in case it’s windy and we need to tie down the tent to prevent it from blowing away.

The flowers come out first. They are already in bunches and in buckets of water. “There’s not many flowers today,” the grower says. I count 30 buckets, which seems like plenty to me.

While I’m still pulling flowers out of the van, Michael starts putting the tents up. The tables are set up in an L-shape and the grower moves the van back so that the side door is directly in front of the tables. Michael unloads the heavy boxes of apples directly onto the tables and we try to organize all the different varieties. Extra boxes of apples go behind the tables and under the tables. We’ll replenish the apples many times during the day.

6:40am – The grower pays Michael (that’s the last I see of Michael on Saturday) and heads off to park the van in a parking garage over by the Embarcadero Center. We arrange the flowers: bunching the tall sunflowers and cosmos around the tent poles and setting the more0 delicate dahlias and sweet peas on one of the tables.

Suddenly I smell cantaloupes and I realize that the farmer next door is unloading flats of his summer produce: tomatoes, squash, eggplants, and melons.

This picture is from last year. Northern Spy apples are not yet in season.

7am – We open the apple boxes and fill them to the very top. We set the scales. Every apple variety is labeled with the price per pound and a brief description. I try to make sure I know what each apple is like so I can describe it to people throughout the day.

I love apples and have shopped at this stand for years so I’m fairly well prepared. (Later in that day when a woman asks me if we grow Empires, I tell her to check back in a few weeks. I tell the guy looking for Arkansas Black to expect them in November.) But there are always varieties that I’m less familiar with and I want to make sure I can direct those shoppers who are looking for sweeter apples or those who prefer tarter apples.

I often eat an apple shortly after 7am. The grower and I both prefer tart apples. He points at a sweet variety: “This is probably the most boring apple I grow,” he says. I try it and it’s delicious — juicy and crunchy, like a Honeycrisp but without any hint of acidity.

7:30am – Our first customers usually show up before the market officially opens, before we’ve got our aprons on or our change ready, and the next few hours are a blur of  weighing apples, wrapping flowers in paper and making change.

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One Response to “My Morning Market”

  1. mary evelyn Says:

    beautiful picture

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