Saturday I set my alarm for 5:20 a.m.—a time I rarely see except for the occasional early morning flight. Since the sun doesn’t rise until the 7 o’clock hour here these days, I’m used to getting up to start work at 8. That’s one of the nice things of farming—you’re pretty much dictated by daylight hours for most tasks. Work in the fields, at least, can’t be done past sunset unless you want to pull out your headlamp. I actually heard a farmer after the market on Saturday (the reason for our rising early) joke about doing this.
We pulled out from the farm’s gravel driveway at 5:45. The twists and turns around the mountains in the foggy darkness called for a little extra caution. We arrived in Arcata a little after 7. The city, which houses Humboldt University, has a compact downtown. A colorful array of storefronts surrounds the central square where the market takes place. With the city still sleepy, we unloaded the truck bed full of containers into the designated area. Every Saturday from April until Thanksgiving Greenfire Farm’s produce has a home here.
Linda guided us into how to set up the display, which includes eight tables formed into a U-shape. We draped fall themed tablecloths over them and began arranging baskets heaping with recently harvested produce. Kate, a fellow WWOOFer, and I practiced using the scale and soon after, by 8 a.m., folks began to trickle in. Linda chatted with regular customers, some of who seemed like old friends now.
Talk of the produce was also thrown into the conversation, especially as people discovered the celery root. Celery root, also called celeriac, looks like a creature out of a science fiction movie. As large as a head, these gnarly tubers stopped people in their tracks. Those familiar with them seemed elated at their presence and compared how they like to make them. Apparently they can be prepared like other root vegetables and make a nice contribution to potatoes or parsnips in a mashed combination.
A steady stream of people stopped in. All of them seemed happy to be out enjoying the nice Saturday, and also to be on the receiving end of bright orange peppers and leeks the size of swords. (Or maybe that man was happy just to have a new toy in the sword sized leek). They passed multiple items onto the scale and put my mental math skills to work.
By 2 p.m. we’d sold out of the celery root, as well as the carrots, leeks, onions, cabbages, and most peppers and herbs. We packed up the remaining winter squash and Linda filled a box with the leftover kale and collards to be donated. The now empty containers of produce meant not only that Arcata’s residents had fresh ingredients for their upcoming meals, but also that we had a little less work in loading up the truck for the return trip.