The other week, my Aunt Mary (my cousin Maralee’s mother) invited me to go with them to the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market in Kansas City. For the past 23 years, from March until Christmas, my uncle and aunt have trucked their baked goods to “The City.”
Since we would be leaving early the next morning, Joanna and I spent the night at Uncle Glenn’s. Waking up at 3:30 we got ourselves ready, then went out to help load the truck. There’s about 500 loaves of bread, 200 pies, 1770 cookies, 2250 cinnamon rolls, and 324 dinner rolls, not to mention the granola, noodles, and jams that are also packed in.
Aunt Mary’s oldest daughter, Alissa, arrives with her 3 year old and 1 year old daughters. My 13-year-old sister, Joanna, is along to watch the little girls. We depart the bakery at 4 a.m.
I sit in the passenger seat and talk with my aunt as the others snooze. Aunt Mary needs someone to help keep her awake since she got up at 3 a.m. yesterday to start the ovens and didn’t get to bed until 11 p.m.
An hour and a half later we pull into the Kansas City River Market. Our booth numbers are 3 and 4. This means we are the second vendors. Old Dave, the veteran veggie grower, has booths 1 and 2. He has been attending this same market for nearly eight decades!
As the sun is lightening the sky, we finish setting out the baked goods in their proper places on the table. There are seven kinds of cookies, eight choices in quick bread flavors, nine different yeast breads, and 17 different flavors of pie.
We all don royal blue aprons with Bauman Farms embroidered on them and I begin the market trot. I step to the money box to get a customer’s change and notice that over there is a customer holding up a loaf of bread, and here the cinnamon rolls need re-stocked, and there goes the baby trying to sneak a cookie.
After two decades of baking, there are quite a few dedicated shoppers, but just as many are first timers. You can tell the newbies by the questions they ask.
We dish out a surprisingly amount of advice. Since all of the baked goods are preservative free, folks don’t know how long they will stay fresh. So we tell them: “Yes, you can freeze the bread. Yes, the cinnamon rolls freeze well, and, yes, even the pies can be frozen!”
Maralee is gluten intolerant, which has led them to introduce a few items that are gluten free. They have a really delicious cookie that is flour-free, as well as pumpkin chocolate chip bread. The diabetics get a nod as well; the sugar-free pies nearly always sell out, and the sugar-free jellies are likewise welcomed.
Surprisingly, one of the best-selling pies right now is gooseberry. Gooseberries must be newly re discovered, as even the gooseberry jellies sell well.
The traffic slowed down after noon, so I got a chance to take a little spin around the market with Adrian, the three year old.
I thoroughly enjoyed all of the beautiful vegetable displays and was fascinated with all of the Asian greens, lemongrass, squash blossoms, water spinach, bitter melons. I thought it would be interesting to see how you used some of those unusual edibles, but a three year old is not that enthused with vegetable displays, so we had to move on.
Adriane did find a display she was interested in: the fudge lady had the cutest little fudge cones! I also got to chat with a producer who was scheduled to bring more chickens the next week to our processing plant.
About 3 p.m. as we were packing up, one of the vendors across the aisle wandered over to applaud our initiative. I smiled when he mentioned that he was glad we were packing up, so the rest of the vendors would get the hint.
“Hey!” The vendor responded with mock surprise. “That’s the first time I’ve seen you smile all day!”
“Whatever!” I returned, laughing at such a ludicrous statement.
I knew it wasn’t true. I had spent the last 10 hours smiling nearly non-stop.
Smiling is one of the best tools for a vendor at a big city farmers market. The aisles at such a market are so wide that you can get caught up in the people flow and just brush by most of the booths.
If I was not helping a customer sack up their purchases, I felt it my duty to pull in customers so we wouldn’t have a lot of leftover baked goods. I would look out into the river of shoppers swishing down the walkway, make eye contact and give a genuine smile.
If they were within ten feet, I would also make sure I greeted them. Being recognized as an individual in a public space in the city is rare.
Whether they had already intended to stop, I don’t know, but quite often, after being smiled at, the pedestrians would make their way over to our display.
It is my belief that it always pays to smile genuinely. It’s really not that hard to smile at random people because, generally speaking, people are an amusing study.
Market is a lot like dressing chickens; both places you spend ten hours standing on concrete. I returned home at 4:30 p.m. One of the benefits of attending market is that you get first dibs on the leftovers. I selected several loaves of bread and a baby raspberry pie, but I didn’t eat any for supper. I had just spent an entire day looking at these products, I didn’t want them on my supper plate!