|sharing my tent with another vendor, YarnThings|
So what makes a farmer's market unique?
First, of course, are the customers, who want to be more educated about the products they buy than the typical shopper at a craft show. They ask questions about ingredients, suggest local ingredient sources and over the course of the six month season, are very regular shoppers. They are often a source of information, inspiration, and even friendship.
Then there are my fellow vendors. Without them, how would I have learned to make perfect raised doughnuts or thin crust vegetable pizza? Learned what to do with a banana squash or discovered so many uses for kale? Enjoyed my weekly brownie, courtesy of Karen, the bakery lady? With whom would I swap jokes and stories during slow times? It makes filling online orders at home seem very lonely indeed.
And of course, the weather. It can be a tricky thing, but oh! the suspense it brings to every market--the wind, the rain, the tornado warnings--one never knows. The wind can be a particular trial in our market location. It's frequently a joint effort to retrieve each other's price tags, business cards, products, and the occasional tent. A light rain coming straight down is tolerable. But when the driving rain aims directly for your display, forcing you to pack it up until it subsides, you are left to think, "I'm standing here in the cold, pouring rain on a Saturday morning, hanging onto a tent for all I'm worth next to an empty table...would someone remind me why?" You glance around for hidden cameras, convinced there are hordes of people watching your plight, giggling at your pathetic little self. I've thought of handing out tester bars in a rainstorm in an effort to keep sales up, but people are so darn fussy about lathering up under the glow of lightning. At the end of the day, the feeling of camaraderie and mutual suffering makes the most dismal experience tolerable and in the end, maybe even fun.
Although the rough days are more memorable, many days are a joy. To have to relax in the shade on a sunny breezy day, to chat with other vendors and customers and then to make money doing it? The perfect job.
And as for the popular soaps of the summer:
A fruity scent I called Summer Berry Punch.
Sea salt soaps--the turmeric ones were a tropical scent, and the ones colored with pink kaolin clay were scented with Crisp Apple Rose from Bramble Berry, a surprise hit. I think every person that sniffed a bar bought one-- I should have bought a much bigger bottle.
And patchouli, also wildly popular. I colored this batch with cocoa powder, and used additional cocoa powder for the pencil line. Patchouli is a funny thing. I wonder if anyone truly likes the scent or just associates good memories with it. Maybe both, but it seems like every customer who smells a bar says, "Mmm--patchouli. It reminds me of...." (Insert something usually related to the 60s or hippies.) When I first smelled it a few years ago, I felt a bit sheepish. Why, I was very familiar with the scent, except I knew it as the scent of an old-school health food store. Ah, yes! Childhood memories of bulk carob powder, raw sunflower seeds, and wheat germ--those were the days. Maybe that explains my patchouli indifference.