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Posts from by Lach Ryan

Blackframes is the writing of Lach Ryan


Anatomy of a Farmers Market

Lach Ryan

It was the Carnivale of farmers markets. Bigger in scale than the zucchinis entered into the giant vegetable competition that resembled green walruses . More organic than the waste from a composting toilet at a 100% sustainable vegan dance festival.

And I was there.

Wifey had seen on the social medias that a local farm-cafe we like to visit was holding their Autumn Carnival. We went along knowing that many good things come from this farm, like berries, golden-yoked free-range eggs and scones the size of your head so delicious they can make said-head almost implode.

What we didn't expect was how many other people went there too.

Is there anything worse in the world than other people? I thought not until Sunday, then I learnt a new truth. The only thing worse than other people is other people at a Farmers Market.

All Farmers Markets need to have a few mandatories in place to certify them legitimate. Going by the agreed standard, this one was the Old MacDonald of Farmers Markets in that it had everything.

First, you must have on arrival poor car parking options so that those attending have to spread themselves all around cheese trying to negotiate mushroom on a pizza.

I knew this event was going to be an uber market by the fact the grounds resembled the yards of a luxury car dealer. There were more German-made vehicles on display than in occupied France in WWII.

We walked in and were greeted by goats. Nothing strange about that. Until you met their overseer. A boy of about 11 years old who was clearly from a remote country property and strangely also kept in the small pen with the goats. He was eager to talk about goats to anyone who would listen. Which was none of the people who were around us. That didn't stop him, though. It turned out the kid knew more about goats than is healthy for a boy that age to know, should he want to grow up and have some hope of a normal adult existence.

We didn't have to wander too far from Goat Boy until we hit the Farmers Market epicentre. The hand made artisanal bread stand overlooking the hay bales and weird semi-professional musical performance.

Gathered around the hay were the native inhabitants of Farmers Markets. Urbanite breeders over the age of 35 along with their offspring. They were hard to miss in their sensible shoes and conservative cut denim. Their children sang and moved to the instructions of the musical entertainer. She looked and spoke like a primary school teacher who had realised she could make more money on weekend borrowing the school’s junior percussion box, setting it up under a tarpaulin and leading dances to a Children’s Spotify playlist.

It was perfect. Almost like there was a Farmers Market choreographer overseeing the whole scene, and just as it couldn't have been more quintessential - out came the giant rainbow parachute. The adults held it over the kids in a bid to help them kickstart claustrophobic tendencies while they all tried to escape colourful suffocation and return to safety. I think they all survived.

We moved on to get a coffee which, true to tradition,  could only be attained by waiting a few days in a line. Once I had secured the caffeine, I found my family, caught up on the last few days and headed out to explore the rest of the grounds.

While I was away, we had missed the workshop on composting. Wifey had wanted to go, but I figured there wasn't that much to it. You get your vegetable and garden waste and then stick them in a box, then they to rot. Once that is done, you’ve made compost, just by putting something in a special bin and waiting. Not the sort of work that needed shopping if you asked me, but a man with a presentation disagreed and his assembled crowd was willing to back him up.

We headed over to the petting pen, where a decent collection of farm animals had been squeezed into an octagon cage. It was like medium density farm living crossed with MMA. The sheep were terrified and spent the whole time lingering by the gate trying to find their chance to escape. Escape they did, but their freedom was short-lived as they ran into a New Zealand gentleman who handled them like bare-handed sheep wrangling was how he had spent the Saturday nights of his youth.

The chickens had it worse off. They were a smaller breed with weird feathers that made them look like they were wearing ski pants and Russian fur army hats. The children thought they were great fun, mine included. It was a much nicer experience for the kids than those city petting zoos that we used to see. They seemed only to have chickens with that weird alopecia disease that made it look like they had a drug habit. These ones were legitimate farm chooks. They hadn't been fondled before and looked  shaken in the same way anyone would be if they were felt up by a crowd of strangers.

Next to the pen was an old tractor. This was the main attraction of the market with a 15-minute wait to sit in its seat. There were kids everywhere. Parents were calling after them constantly, shouting names that used to be only used for surnames - ‘Parker’, ‘Armstrong’, ‘Jameson’ -  making it all sound like an airforce base roll call.

I knew it was time to go when the ‘other people’ couple in front of us started to live their lives a bit too loudly.

She had one of those sing-songy voices and looked like this trip to the farm was all part of her recent push to be more mindful and eat slower. He looked like he was way too old to be the father of his kids and had an annoyingly positive outlook on queues, tractors and life in general.

I don’t know if it was her announcing the child’s full name every time she spoke to her or him trying to create ‘community’ with other families around the gear stick of a broken tractor, but I had to get away from them.

I looked around and realised I couldn’t.

Everywhere I turned were these parents and their surnamed offspring, taking an organic mindful moment on the farm, deepening their knowledge about local sourcing and spelt bread.

I momentarily considered that we may be one of them, but before I could dwell on that too much we were out of there, picking up some free range eggs and a bouquet of native flowers on the way.

As we left we stopped to say goodbye to the goats and Goat Boy.

Maybe in a perfect world we would see that he is what a true Farmers Market is about. We would listen to his youthful goaty stories and in doing so come to finally understand that most farmer types are strange people and shouldn't have their lifestyle celebrated in market form.