There I was - sporting my WOW! face - staring at THE most impressive Purslane I had ever seen, engrossed in a conversation about organic farming, glyphosate, gassed tomatoes . . . and more.
This summer, on a weekly trip to the Annapolis Valley, I have been stopping at this little roadside stand to grab a few organic treats on the way home. It's a sweet spot, with plenty of room to park and turn back onto the busy road and it's got 'curb-appeal', with a hobbit-like enclave, an umbrella-covered market stand and a sign clearly reading 'organic'. First discovered on a drive with my sister, we just had to check it out!
Like many of the produce stands that are now scattered around the countryside, the seasonal vegetables are displayed in the shade or sun, depending on the variety. At one place discovered last fall, pumpkins, squashes, turnips and potatoes were in fun, brightly-painted wheelbarrows. Price tags range from markers-on-tape to more elaborate affairs and there is usually a box or slot in the tabletop to deposit the cash. For some time, I've been intrigued by the honour-based retail mechanism. Recently, I had the opportunity to gain some very informative and hilarious insight!
This stand always features a few of my favorites, fresh and ready to be turned into something delicious at the end of my long travel day. On my most recent visit, I pulled up to find the farmer on-hand, puttering around at daily stand maintenance, moving stock from the upper garden down to the retail area. I wondered if he would be interested to say hi and have a chat, but I didn't wonder for long. He was so outgoing, happy to meet, provide a tour of the garden, talk about all things organic and the logistics of running a roadside market. It was on the tour that I was introduced to that very impressive Purslane, and so pleased to be invited to 'take as much as you like'. He told me that he had wrapped up a very full career in a professional engineering sector and upon retiring from that, being a person who likes to 'work with my hands and create things', took on the challenge of turning the hillside property into a terraced, organic market garden.
He seemed to have all the time in the world just then and I was in no rush, so after we covered the obvious topics, we sequed into a broader discussion that included our mutual passion for the simple Italian approach to eating, describing a couple of our favorite dishes. Just when I thought I had occupied more than my share of a working farmers' day and should be moving on to allow his completion of early evening chores, another customer came by, picked out her selections, said a quick hello, and zoomed off.
When I had arrived and was establishing my financial situation, I discovered that I had no bills and of course, no debit function available, so ended up raiding my change purse and borrowing from the 'bridge-fare' slot on the dash. My entire cash resource of $6.75 went a long way at his low prices, not to mention a couple of 'gift' items. As we put huge, voluptuous tomatoes, fragrant basil, bright nasturtium flowers, omega-packed purslane, black kale and parsley into my container, I had to ask - "how is this really working out? At the end of the day - does the outgoing produce match up with the cash in?"
The answer was a categorical "yes". Most of it is straightforward, but there is a small post-it pad and pencil on the table that customers use to register exceptions. They often drop 'I.O.U.s' into the slot, intending to settle their outstanding debt on the next visit. But, the funniest item was this: He said he also gets 'U.O.Me's' from folks who only have bills and are owed change. They will use their credit for produce on the next visit! I had to laugh and was absolutely charmed by this engaging farmer/philosopher/social experimenter and the entire operation. He said he gets other odd notes as well from people wanting to say how very much they appreciate his little market stand - and other 'interesting' topics. He called it his 'social experiment' and I thought - what a surprisingly appropriate place to conduct such a study!
Well, I'm still traveling that route regularly, so will continue to pop in as long as he is open for business. I'm looking forward to many more weeks of fresh fare and, if we happen to meet up again - more interesting conversation on the site of this particular retail modality:
"Please Insert Payment Into Slot on Tabletop
Thank You (Smiley Face)”