I recently moved out of San Francisco after twelve years. It was a long goodbye with tons of get-togethers, there was a lot of dust as I rummaged through long-forgotten drawers, and many, many tears were shed. On the last Saturday I was in the city, I was packing a box of old journals. I flipped one open and saw the following note from June 7, 2003.
"First day working at the farmers market. Head spinning, so many things to say. Working behind the scenes is so different than being a customer. Happy."
I remember that day pretty vividly. The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market had just opened in its new location six weeks prior, and I had learned from a friend that Nigel Walker of Eatwell Farm was looking for someone new to work at the booth. Up until this point, I was a regular customer when the market was on Green Street, and was quickly becoming fond of the farmers and vendors. I had learned to love green garlic from Eatwell, and often gave my money to Nigel's five-year-old twins as they learned how to make change.
Working at the market that first day was long, hard work. I arrived at 6am, and left the market exhausted but exhilarated at about 4pm. I hauled produce, set up tents, talked to customers and just watched in awe as the thriving market community swirled around me.
I didn't know the import that day would have. In hindsight, I realize it was the beginning of everything: of long-time relationships with farmers at the market, of a passion about local food that would lead to my blog, to being published nationally, to friendships among a community of like-minded folks that would change the course of my career and my social life. It was a rare moment that changed the course of my life.
At the hub of my memory was a kind, funny, brilliant farmer who was willing to answer any question honestly. And when I say "honestly," I mean it. Nigel didn't always give the politically correct answer to a question, and often didn't tell me what I wanted to hear. I watched as Nigel left his booth to meet with other farmers, interested not only in selling his produce, but in shaping the way that the market fundamentally worked.