My stepdaughter made a commitment to be a vendor at the Norfolk Farmers Market, which runs through October. Then she underwent major reconstructive surgery on her right arm, leaving it in a cast for one-third of the season. Since she wouldn’t be able to exercise the horses at her employer’s boarding farm, it was agreed she would bring items from the creamery, along with eggs, milk, pickled beets, chutneys, jams and goat’s milk soaps to sell each Saturday. The plan was for one of her three children to come along and do the heavy lifting. I agreed to come help out also. I’ve been to numerous farmers markets and always found it great fun. Of course, Norfolk is a little far afield of Litchfield, so I didn’t expect to run into folks I knew, which is a big segment of the fun.
I once managed an antiques and art gallery. Although I had no prior sales experience before that, I quickly learned that when a customer came in, you had to be on your feet and you had to keep talking. The approach differed from customer-to-customer, but basically you wanted to give them something to like about you, and hopefully they would find something they liked enough to bring home. So in preparation for the farmers market, I brought a plastic chair with me but never sat in it.
We weren’t allowed to give samples at the market, and of course everyone asked what does Cheshire cheese taste like? I spun the back story on this, saying one of the partners in the creamery was English, thus Cheshire cheese was English and quite special. When pushed, I allowed that “yes, it tastes somewhat like cheddar.” Another question that came up: “Is this chutney sweet or tart?” My answer to that: “Do you like it sweet? Wonder what pickled beets taste like? Outrageously delicious!” Is the jam made of all-natural ingredients? “Absolutely, and the best flavor combinations — just look at that Peachy-Pear! All at the best prices!”
I’m not proud of this, but I actually tried to sell maple sugar candies to a four-year-old wearing a pink ballerina costume. Her grandfather reasoned with her that she had already reached her maximum daily sugar allowance by devouring a cupcake. I asked if she ate the entire cupcake and her quick reply was no, she had shared the frosting with her sister. I thought, OK, work with me here. Then her grandfather, bless his heart, calmly reminded her that she had eaten the entire cake part of the cupcake. She sadly nodded, and they walked off hand-in-hand.
I took a walk-around break to savor the real fun of the event — finding stuff to buy. I came upon some fancy serrated-leaf coleus plants that I couldn’t pass by. The vendor told me they were “Skyfire” coleus. Now that’s a product that just sells itself. From the other vendors, I chose home-baked brioche and Kalamata olive ciabatta and a goat milk soap in the shape of a lighthouse. Oh wait, that last one was on our table. We also have it in the shape of a dog, or a cat!
I admired a gorgeous necklace handcrafted from the elements of nature, including fossilized ammonite, at one booth, then discovered the artist and I had something in common so we chatted a bit. If the price had been in my budget, I would definitely have walked off with that around my neck.
I probably won’t be asked to return. The plastic chair I never sat in was left behind. I still love farmers markets though. And I’m dreaming about selling that necklace to myself.