By Liz Lyon
It’s six o’clock on a Saturday morning as the Gwenyn Hill Farm van makes its way into the Brookfield Central High School parking lot. Over the next hour and a half, the lot will fill up with vendor stands and, later on, with folks of all ages on the lookout for what’s fresh and exciting at the Brookfield Farmers Market.
But first, we need to set up the market stand, our temporary “store” for the next four and a half hours. Each week we unload, display, and offer an abundance of fruits and veggies for sale (sometimes over 50 varieties in one week!). Our crew worked hard all week at the farm harvesting, washing, and packing this abundance. Even before that, Head Gardener Laurel Blomquist and Harvest Crew Leader Benji Zuniga scouted the field to determine what was ripe and ready to bring to market.
Once the kale bunches are made, tomatoes picked, and potatoes dug, thanks to Benji and the harvest crew, veggies arrive at the wash/pack station. There, Pack Shed Crew Leader Ezequiel Zuniga, along with Alexis and myself, sort and wash everything we need for the market, packing each crop into its own container for transport to the farmers market. Finally, two crew members arrive at the farm before 5am on Saturday to load the van and head over to Brookfield. Laurel, Alexis, Braden, and myself take turns working the market.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is! As a farm with limited time and resources at our disposal, why bother with a farmers market? Why not just sell our produce at our self-serve farm store, or to wholesale accounts like restaurants and grocery stores? In many ways, the answer comes down to human connection.
Here on the farm, we spend much of our time working long hours doing the nitty-gritty work of planting, maintaining, harvesting, and packing produce. Throughout the course of weeks and months of weeding, battling pests, and hot and humid temperatures, it’s easy to become disconnected from the real reason we’re growing the food in the first place: the customer. The farmers market gives us an amazing opportunity to reconnect. It is both exciting and gratifying to meet and hear from the people who enjoy eating the food we work so hard to grow each week.
At the market, we meet our customers face-to-face, learning what they (and their kids, their dogs, and sometimes even their rabbits) like to eat. We swap tasting notes on herbs, veggies, and microgreens, and share recipes for what’s fresh that week. We get to know who likes the golden beets, or the cute cone-shaped cabbages, or prefer the giant cucumbers for their juicing habit. We worry about regulars when they don’t show up to the market for a couple weeks and are happy to see them and catch up when they return.
Farmers markets are a little more work than the grocery store for both farmers and customers, but we think the human connection, not to mention the freshness and variety of food, is certainly worth the effort. We hope you’ll come visit us at the Brookfield Farmers Market– bring your dog, your friends, and your kids. Don’t forget to share with us your favorite recipes and all of your farming and veggie-related questions! We can’t wait to see you there.
The Brookfield Farmers Market runs every Saturday from May through October, 7:30am – 12pm. The market takes place in the front parking lot of Brookfield Central High School. At the market, Gwenyn Hill sells fresh produce, microgreens, and grass-fed beef and lamb when available.
Liz Lyon is finishing up her first season as a Farm Manager Apprentice at Gwenyn Hill Farm.