16 April 2010

A day in the life of a market manager

The latest from inside the brain of senior market manager Jaret Foster:


The market is open and running smoothly. I step inside Smith to have a moment and to wash my hands. I’ve been picking up cigarette butts, crumpled napkins and sample cups spilled off of vendors booths and want to get the “market hands” washed off. Our staff and I often find ourselves indulging in some sweet morsel only to realize that we’ve got “market hand”, basically any combination of ashtray, WD40 , gack from the bottoms of the market totes and/or rusty bilge water from the bungee bucket. I pause to look out over the market from the slightly elevated 1st floor of Smith and, again, marvel at the beauty of the market from the hushed inside space. My radio crackles breaking the silence and Jamie calls out that the Senior Market Manager’s presence is needed at the Info Booth.


Nick, one of the market crew, needs to step away from selling tokens for a minute so I take a turn in the Info Booth. It’s nearing noon and I still haven’t eaten; I can feel the coffee wearing off and my stomach says eastsomething! I had tried not to but Fred from Salumeria DiCarlo has again brought us an amazing coconut bun from the Asian bakery he lives near and I am powerless at this point to stay away. I tear off a quarter of the large round ensuring that I get a good portion of the unnatural pale yellow coconut center. Yum. This will likely carry me until the lines die down at Tastebud and I can get a proper carb load (black pepper bagel, bacon and arugula sandwich) . Cookies from Two Tarts are there too but I have to be careful only eating latte and sugar lest I crash in the early PM. I glance up from the token machine to see two customers shouldering a whole spring lamb a piece. I laugh and call attention to it for others to be sure and see as that is one of my favorite market scenes. Another being when folks are so inspired by their freshness that they pry open a six pack of oysters and slurp them down right here in the park.


A customer has come up and the token machine has died in the middle of the transaction for the third time in the last 10 minutes and I am really ready to step out of Info. Like magic Jamie shows up with a heaving basket of produce which she says is for a family supper she’s hosting with her mom and sister on Sunday. Awesome, I say and, can you take this over for me, thanks. I walk up to the new south block to have look at how the lines are forming for hot food. People are everywhere. Lounging in the grass, all over the benches and on the steps of the library. The lines snake all over and I excuse myself through to check on John and Gabrielle at Cest Si Bon who’re kind of stuck in the middle. They are cranking out crepes and smiling so I don’t bother to ask how things are going, they look to be fantastic. The line for Pine State stretches for twenty feet outside the market and from my vantage point seems not to end. I ask Walt how it’s going and he looks up from a cauldron of frying chicken and says it’s going. Must be alright. Still need to ask them about the new shop on Alberta. Good to have them in my neighborhood.

12 noon

I see that one of the new EverGreen waste station’s compost bags is beginning to bulge out and take a shot at re-bagging their wire frames. Believe it or no there are directions on how to best install a garbage bag. You have to twist, tuck and flip the bag just right but it is really cool how, if done right, the seal gets tighter the heavier the trash. If done poorly, well, you can guess the outcome. I grab the full bag of compost and walk it the 100 yards or so to our sorting area behind Groundworks. I meet Ryan there our EverGreen Coordinator. He’s our newest employee and really great. He’s an Eagle Scout, no kidding, loves trash and finds inspiration in refuse. I take a turn at pulling the Starbucks cups (notably NOT compostable, they are plastic lined), lids, straws etc out of the compost bags. The compost hauler, Cedar Grove, will reject the whole load if it’s too contaminated with non-compostables so we do a back of house sort which involves some sticky, coffee stained messes.


Nick, Joe and I come together to chat about load out. Nick suggests going out to get the time signs a little early so that he can be back to direct traffic and begin break down right at two. Sounds good to me. I’m a little tired and think that getting home before 4:30 sounds really good. Joe and I talk about Gathering Together Farm and the south entrance of the market. We agree that opening it a little before the sanctioned 2:20 time will make for a few less headaches later on. Ten after two we’ll open up the west side for GTF and the hot food row to begin load out. That decided I walk over to the east side to talk with a few new vendors there about how best to get out of here.


I’m stopped by someone I vaguely recognize but can tell they have something to say to me and it’s likely not with admiration. They introduce themselves as vendors that did not get in this season and I recall that we had spoken late last summer. They are recently re-located from So. Cal and have a prepared food business. I thank them for their application but re-iterate that we have completed the application for the season and that they were not selected. They assure me that if we would just try the product we would change our minds. I hear this all the time. I thank them again but they insist that they will drop some samples by our office sometime soon. I let them know that we have a jury process that involves members of our Board, Vendors and staff and that though I like samples it will not change their status with PFM for this season. We shake hands and his wife holds my hand for a moment more to say that I really should try it, it’s the best. I nod and excuse myself. Call me a purist but 16 flavors of pre-packaged hummus and pita chips just does not seem a farmers market product.


At two we begin tear down in earnest. First off we delicately begin to remove the seating. Doing so we have found makes people get the message that the fun is over. The musicians are signaled to cease playing which also changes the air and re-enforces that it’s time to go home. We do all this to be proactive in clearing the market as much as possible before the vendors are allowed in with their trucks at 2:20. Joe has already talked to everyone on the west side of the south block about staging their vehicles in order of their booths with GTF backed in to be first in with New Cascadia, Souper Natural, Boyco Honey and DeNobles lined up to get in before the rest of Food Row. We pull all the signage and try to get most of the Manager’s & Info Booths packed up before the traffic starts flowing, with mixed success.


We open the flood gates with a radio call to all staff “2:20, 2:20, 2:20!” I stand by at the Managers Booth on Harrison St. Joe is up on the west side, south entrance and Nick and Jamie are at Info. I see that Marven’s canopies are, as per usual all broken down and he’s in his super tall diesel box truck right behind Chenin from Twist Wine. Curly’s behind them and the Seely Family is half in the street waiting for the line to move down. By some miracle SuDan Farm is already broken down and headed my way down Harrison from the west. I wave at them to roll ahead and warn some late buyers at Rogue creamery to watch the truck, please. Susie, the “Su” of SuDan is in the cab and mouths a thank you while she counts the days till. Dan is one of the orneriest farmers I’ve ever met and she is one of the sweetest. I suppose they balance each other out.


Amber and Anna have broken away to reconcile the tokens and Nick, Joe and I are left to finish packing up the truck. We are nearly the first in and always the last to leave. For the most part all of the vendors are gone by 3:30 or 4 and we are left with a rapidly quieting South Park Blocks. I look around and survey the grounds for leftover parcels and pick up any drifting trash. We try to leave the park as we found it but have 12,000 people make their way through the space in just over 5 hours so have some tidying up to do.


I have shouldered my take of fresh greens, the many layers of clothing I have shed over the day and finish off one of the cupcakes that Lisa from Petunia’s has brought us knowing that it is spoiling my appetite for what I hope is a big dinner at home and make my way to my truck. I thank the rest of the crew who are arguing over who’s gonna take the last of the treats and which bouquet is whose. The girls from Springhill Farm are sweeping up their stall and I thank them too. They ask when does the Wednesday market open again and I say before your know it, May 5th. The first week of May we open three markets; Sunday King, Wednesday Shemanski Park and the Thursday Buckman market in southeast. It will be great to have them all open but that is going to be a hell of week.