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Farmers' Market vendors work hard for us

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Last Thursday was one of those 100-degree days in Lincoln that being indoors made the most sense to be. Which was too bad because my favorite Farmers’ Market runs from 5 to 8 p.m. every Thursday through Aug. 30 on F Street between 5th and 6th streets in Lincoln. I survived for only 20 minutes at last Thursday’s market before feeling like toast. Most Thursdays since the seasonal market began in June have been too hot for me personally to stay the entire three hours. But the 20 or so produce and plant vendors there last Thursday didn’t have the option to leave after 20 minutes of being in the hot sun. They had to stay. Even if there wasn’t an abundance of shoppers looking at the vendors’ products. The News Messenger ran a heartfelt column last Thursday (page A10, “Finding the joys of farming”) by Billie Jean Salle, the Sierra Fresh Certified Farmers’ Market manager who selects Thursday’s produce vendors. Salle explained how vulnerable local farmers are in today’s economy. While vendors might practice the best business procedures and have the sweetest fruit and most tasty vegetables, vendors are at the mercy of Mother Nature’s often extreme weather conditions and pest epidemics. And yet vendors assemble their merchandise and then stand in the heat three hours every Thursday to sell us, for example, peaches for a few dollars or blooming salvia plants for $6. It’s a hard way to make a living, but, at the Farmers’ Market, I’ve only seen the vendors smiling as shoppers stroll through F Street. “It’s a lot of hard work,” said Lara Hawthorne, who represents Sierra View Nursery every Thursday at the Lincoln market. “I load the truck with usually 250 plants and trees, unload the truck, then take back plants to the nursery and water them.” Hawthorne’s plants and trees are grown locally and so they are acclimated to this climate. It makes sense for Lincoln gardeners to visit vendors such as Hawthorne. Her livelihood “depends” on selling year-round at the weekly Farmers’ Markets. “I go to Marysville, Galt, Sacramento, whatever markets I can find,” Hawthorne said. “I’m at Denio’s (Roseville Farmers Market )Fridays through Sundays.” Lincoln’s Farmers’ Market started “with a big bang” in June, according to Hawthorne. “But it has been slow the last couple of weeks with sales because of the heat,” she said. Seng Thao of Thao Farms in Sacramento is another vendor who mentioned heat as a big deterrent to the smaller number of shoppers at this year’s Thursday’s market. “The heat is keeping people away,” Thao said. “But you can’t do anything about it; you live with it.” And the high temperatures play havoc on the produce, Thao said. “The heat affects a lot of produce and burns them,” Thao said. “Our raspberries got burnt three weeks ago with 110-degrees weather. The hot/cold weather affects everything, including tomatoes.” While I go to the big-box stores on auto pilot during the three other seasons, I enjoy picking fresh fruit and vegetables every summer Thursday from local farmers. If these farmers have to work in the hot sun long hours every day to guarantee quality food for us, surely I can stand a few hours of heat every Thursday. I’m looking forward to tonight’s Farmers’ Market. I asked Hawthorne to save two coneflower plants for me. I bought two from her at the market in June and they are among my healthiest plants. How nice to have all this greenery available for us just minutes from Lincoln neighborhoods. I’m going to dress more coolly for the hot temperatures today so I can enjoy every minute of the Farmers’ Market. Hope you join me. Carol Feineman can be reached at carolf@goldcountrymedia.com