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A Day at the Farmers Market


Saturday I did the farmers market with my new employee Elizabeth. I'll be honest- I wasn't looking forward to it. Elizabeth is charming and I can't wait to get to know her better but the idea of packing up the "store" and taking it on tour gave me a heavy heart. For years, I did it by myself, sometimes four or five a week. It was great training to learn exactly who my customers was but it's somewhat of an energy suck.

I arose at 4:30 a.m. You can't go to bed early enough to have 4:30 make sense to your body, as far as I'm concerned. The radio said rain, my brain said Go back to bed! I got up and prepared for the day. As I left the house, I noticed the coffee had put me n a fine mood. I met Elizabeth at the warehouse where we loaded up our two vehicles and then headed through the remarkable fog towards San Francisco.


Hot, sweet, milky espresso in a thermos, good music on the CD player (Eugenia Leon's La Suave Patria) (NB: out of print but worth every penny) and no traffic found me singing along and actually enjoying myself. When we arrived at the ferry building, it was just before 7 a.m. and the curb was crowded with delivery trucks and vendors. I just double parked and we casually unloaded. I took a lot of grief from old pals who hadn't seen me at the market for awhile but I was ready for it and took it in good stride. The stall looked good and we finished just as the first customers came up.

What a great day! I love my customers and their intelligent questions and enthusiasm for the beans. I'd forgotten how much many of them mean to me, even the one or two irritating ones. Once I start talking about beans and New World food, it's like an energy bar and I was soaring. I know I am the luckiest guy on the planet because I've found an audience for what I do. I'm not trying to sell people something they don't need and I get to sell them something I'm passionate about. I've been around the block enough times to know this doesn't happen often.

Sales were wild and by 11 a.m. we were almost sold out of everything. Customers come in waves; first the hardcore folks, then the foodies and bloggers along with the restaurant chefs (who want to come earlier but fatigue keeps them in bed a little longer than they want) and later the tourists. The tourists are where the party often fades because they have no idea why someone would be selling beans. They're the most challenging but if you can sell them one pound, it often turns into a lifelong online customer.

The market ends at 2 p.m. and everyone is more than ready to go home. Elizabeth did a great job and we had fun. Packing up was easy as we sold almost everything but we were burnt out. I was creaky and stiff getting out of the car when I finally arrived in Napa.

So what's the point? What's the lesson? I think I know what's best for me and I'm always surprised how wrong I can be. The idea of working a farmers market can be oppresive but the reality is that it's hard, but it's fun and I have the greatest customers. And the best thing is I wasn't nuts- there really is an customer for Rancho Gordo!

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