Ready for Apples

I’ve been back at the farmers market every week basis for the last few months selling flowers. Selling flowers is generally pretty easy: there’s nothing to weigh; all bunches are priced at $5 or $8 so I don’t have to deal with loose change; and flowers make people really happy.

I’ve never really cared much about flowers, but selling them helped me appreciate flowers a bit more. I’ve really enjoyed having fresh flowers in the house each week, and I’ve learned a lot about the flowers I sold this year. I learned that sweet peas only like a little bit of water and that hydrangeas need to be picked when they’re fully open in order to last very long. I learned that godetia is part of the Clarkia family and grows on the west coast from British Columbia down to San Francisco. I’m still working on learning the 15 (!) sunflower varieties that the farm grows. (The ones pictured below are called Coconut Ice).


Along with the names of flowers, I’ve also learned the names of many of our regulars, since most buy their flowers when they first get to the market and then leave them with us (in water) while they finish their shopping. I also learned that one regular flower customer is an artist and went to see her stunning paintings of San Francisco at a downtown gallery last month. I ran into another regular in the elevator at my weekday job.

But despite all the lovely things about selling flowers, it’s still working with the public, which can be challenging at times, and it’s still at the market, which leads to some “This is a fucking farmers market” moments.

A few weeks ago, a customer wanted me to cut open four different bunches of flowers and arrange them for her (something we generally don’t do because we’re busy and, also, not florists) and was then upset that I only had brown paper to wrap her flowers in. “This is a gift!,” she said. (I kindly bit my tongue and didn’t tell her that this is a fucking farmers market.)


People also tend to buy flowers even when they probably shouldn’t – when they are heading to a Giants game or going a movie or will be sitting in a hot car for many hours. They look at me unhappily as if there’s something I can do (beyond simply giving them a refund). “But I’m going on the ferry!” one woman exclaimed last week, staring at her flowers as if she had to try to swim them back to Marin.

Working at the market also brings up the strangest questions, often questions that I can’t answer: Will my cat eat this flower? Will one bunch fill a vase? Can I grow this in Connecticut? Will these flowers survive a flight to Nebraska? Will these flowers bloom by Wednesday?

(My favorite question this year was a woman who asked for the farm’s business card, which includes contact information for Stan, the grower. The woman scanned the card, looked at me, and asked “Are you Stan?” Stan, who was standing nearby, was highly amused.)


On our way home from the market each week, Mr. WholeHog and I talk about the funny or aggravating moments from our day. We exchange market gossip and note any celebrity (or pseudo-celebrity) sightings (ie, Alice Waters, Nancy Pelosi, Henry Winkler).

But recently on the way home from the market, I did nothing but complain. I complained about the woman who insisted on wrapping her own flowers in brown paper (and how she still couldn’t get her flowers covered), and about the man who wanted us to deliver flowers to a woman wearing a teal tank top and carrying a black purse when she strolled by. I told him about the cranky old woman who criticized my math skills when I charged her an end-of-the-market discount, and I rolled my eyes as I recounted the person who asked me if we actually grew the flowers we sold or if we just bought them from somewhere in South America.

As I was unloading on Mr. WholeHog, though, I realized that my problem wasn’t irritating customers or unusual questions — that’s just an average day at the market. The problem was that I was tired of selling flowers. I was tired of the same questions, the same comments, the (seemingly) same tourists every week who use our stand as a colorful backdrop for their vacation pictures.

I’m ready to sell apples again – and I’ll get my chance this weekend when the first-pick of Gravensteins arrive.

Apple season isn’t perfect. It has its own loony customers (I saw my most-disliked apple customer at the market recently buying vegetables and I was delighted that I didn’t have to interact with her). And apple season brings its own assault of unanswerable questions (Why is this apple named Sierra Beauty? Why is this apple redder than that apple? Why does this apple have a waxy skin? Or my favorite from last season, Why don’t you grow bananas?). But apple season will bring new questions, new customers, new joys and new aggravations.


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