Author: Jennifer Giovanniello

Veggie Stand 8/9!

Thankfully we’ve seen much better weather since we last wrote! It was overcast with no threat of rain, so we had a larger crowd at this veggie stand as opposed to the last. We offered produce not only from LaFarm, the Easton Urban Farm, Crayola, and Safe Harbor as usual, but we also had a few on-site donations, the first of the season. Sophia harvested several cucumbers on behalf of a community gardener at one of the plots at 10th and Pine, and stand newcomer Karen gave us several shopping bags full of oregano, parsley, and lemon balm (which is supposedly very good in tea, especially when mixed with mint). They were the first on-site stand donations that we’ve seen this season, which was gratifying and exciting to see. We hope that we’ll see more!

Tomato season is now officially in full force– we had roughly five or more bins worth of both cherry and large tomatoes, both from LaFarm and the Urban Farm. It took a semi-exhaustive harvest to get them all there that Lisa compared to spelunking– crouching between rows of semi-sprawling tomato plants, trying to reach through the dense tangle of branches. We consistently got our hands covered in tomato sap, but all of the time spent harvesting was well worth it– we had plenty for the veggie stand, so much so that we had plenty of leftovers to donate to the Neighborhood Center at the end of the night in spite of people’s enthusiasm to see tomatoes available.

We’ve also changed a few things since the last stand– based on our visitors’ understandably low enthusiasm for filling out our surveys, we didn’t distribute any this week, but instead made the main focus of our information table about asking people for their recipes/pictures of their cooking for the cookbook that we want to compile (hopefully to be completed by the end of the summer, depending on how many recipes we get). We left mostly blank sheets of paper on the table for this purpose, for people to either fill out on at the stand if they felt really inspired (like one of our volunteers, Eve, did last night) or to take home to fill out and give back to us later. Already, we had one person hand us a recipe that she had filled out for us a week ago, and many more people (at least ten!) picked up sheets to fill out and give back to us.

Being the designated person to run the info table this week, I noticed how much lighter the atmosphere felt when I talked to people about recipes instead of surveys. I think that also from the standpoint of community ownership in this project that this is a really encouraging project to collaborate on. I’m personally excited see what recipes we’ll receive in the weeks to come, and how much more we all can learn about how to prepare (and then talk about preparing) vegetables.

Besides the emphasis on recipes for this week, we also had signup sheets on the info table for people to volunteer for helping set up the stand, which I would talk about if people asked me about it. Since most of our potential student volunteers are starting to go home, it would be great to get additional support from new volunteers. We haven’t gotten any signups yet, but we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks. We’re also continuing to raffle off cooking supplies (we’ll be giving everything away on our final veggie stand of the year, September 13th) and to have weekly stand activities– this week, Miranda put together face- and banner-painting. Several people lingered, and people talked to us about their cooking, all of which made this week’s veggie stand a really enjoyable one.

8/2: Veggie Stand #5

It was a week that went smoothly in spite of a few possible challenges– two of us three interns were on vacation (though 2/3 of us were back in time for the stand). In spite of this, the labor shortage was more than made up for with the additional help of volunteers at the Easton Urban Farm and employees at LaFarm with harvesting, and Miranda and Doc M helping with veggie transport on Thursday. Mark from the Urban Farm strategically had us harvest most of the produce meant to go to the stand on Tuesday rather than on Thursday morning as we usually do, since we had a larger group of volunteers earlier in the week and that provided us with more time to clean the produce on Thursday. So we were still able to easily harvest just as much as we usually do– and maybe more, since tomato season has officially started last week at the farms, and the three rows of plants at the Urban Farm alone have been steadily producing several harvest bins’ worth of tomatoes every day.

Weather for Thursday was the next challenge since it was forecasted to rain that night. After watching it downpour at around 2:30, double- and triple-checking weather forecasts, we checked in with Doc M and decided that we were still a go for stand night. And though it rained intermittently during the stand, it didn’t pour, leaving our spirits undampened. The neighborhood also wasn’t too fazed by the weather, with around 35 people showing up that night.

Easton Hospital had a table set up for our stand activity for the week, handing out samples of kale chips and plates sectioned into recommended serving sizes for children. Everyone was excited about tomatoes (and the flower bouquets from LaFarm that Lisa thoughtfully added to her harvest), and we somehow managed to have some left over, probably due to the large harvest and to the lower turnout. Undoubtedly, though, the next time that we have good weather for a veggie stand, we’re going to have much higher demand for tomatoes.

2018 Season Launch!

After weeks of farming and preparing for the first veggie stand of the season, it comes as a relief to all of us interns to have had strong launch this past week. With clear skies, abundant harvests, and the help of Sophia, Steve, and a number of student volunteers, the tents were set up and the Safe Harbor produce was weighed in time for 5:30. Apart from us feeling a little frazzled about what to set up first, setup went relatively smoothly, and we decided it would be wise to plan a general sequence or checklist of things that we need to do in order to make the process a little less stressful.

We saw 39 attendees come and go with bags full of veggies, and we had plenty left over to be donated to the Easton Area Neighborhood Center afterward (much thanks to the harvests from LaFarm, the Easton Urban Farm, Crayola, and the Safe Harbor community garden). We also had some kale recipes available, distributed a survey on food security, and Miranda hosted a flower-pressing activity that drew the attention of several kids.

Above: a few of our volunteers handing out produce last week.

We had advertised about a week in advance, posting on the ViC Facebook page and distributing flyers in widening circles around 10th and Pine (our stand location), and it seems that Facebook was the more successful method of the two, even though both drew visitors to the stand (that, and most notably, Sophia spreading the word throughout the neighborhood). In the future we definitely want to make regular use of Facebook to advertise our weekly activities and have more conversations with people in the neighborhood and community leaders to better spread the word about our stand.

Veggie Stand #4: The First of the Tomatoes

Thursday’s stand went well, especially in terms of our range of available produce and the number of families that we fed– approximately 75! We also had some of the first tomatoes of the season available this week, and they (unsurprisingly) sold very well.

This week’s experience was most similar to our professors’ descriptions of what the Markets at 10th and Pine have been like in years past, with a line forming as early as thirty minutes in advance, and with a slightly overwhelming initial rush of people. As our professors have told us before we began running the stands, it is during this initial rush that produce flies off of the tables– especially popular items like tomatoes and potatoes. This week definitely lived up to that expectation, since the more high-demand items, like green beans and tomatoes, were gone before the initial flood of people had even subsided. The only reason why we didn’t run out of other popular items, such as peppers and potatoes, was because we had received a very generous amount of both from Crayola’s farm in Forks, so we had enough to last us about halfway through the evening.

I worked on restocking the supply of tomatoes, carrying two pint-sized cartons to the table at a time. I was constantly restocking, and it was a brief job given how quickly the tomatoes were taken– it seemed that as soon as I replenished the tables with two more pint-sized cartons, two more were gone. While the fast consumption of our produce is certainly encouraging, the customers who came to the stand after the initial rush were discouraged by the fact that the more popular items had been taken in such a short span of time. These customers then decided that it would be better for them to come to the stand earlier, which is a bit stressful for the ViC team to hear about. Not only does such thinking point to the possibility that customers are treating our stand as if it is similar to a food pantry, but if more people think that they must come to the stand early to receive the most desirable produce, then it contributes to the initial rush, which can be overwhelming for us.

Some possible solutions that we have brainstormed about include replenishing the stocks of produce on the tables more strategically, so that high-demand items like tomatoes can stay on the tables for a longer period of time. We also talked about possibly labeling such items as having limited stock, and leaving an additional suggested donation amount for that particular item. We also are more determined to start the stand at exactly 5:30 next week, and not ten minutes earlier like this week.

In the weeks to come, we also plan on having an informational table set up– complete with a sign-up sheet for Easton Urban Farm volunteers, a poster providing information about LaFarm and the Urban Farm, and optional surveys for customers. We’re also looking to have a presence at 10th and Pine during Easton’s National Night Out by hosting a potluck. So, between getting an info table set up for next week, and having ourselves set up at 10th and Pine for two days out of the week, it will be a bit of a busier week for ViC, but definitely a productive and exciting one!

Veggie Stand #3: Featuring Dramatic Downpours

Our last Veggie Stand has been our most successful one yet! We had approximately 69 attendees, and almost all of our produce sold out in spite of the large amounts that we had available. It must have been because of the better weather– the only rain that we experienced that day was thankfully right after we finished putting everything away.

Casey and I have been improving in our car Tetris skills– now that we’ve had a bit of prior experience, we’ve become more efficient in loading the van with produce from the Urban Farm. Not only did we not need a second van or a third set of hands to help us with everything as I had initially thought, but we were also able to weigh all of our produce right before loading the van instead of during our Wednesday harvest, giving us more recent, accurate numbers.

Setup of the stand itself was once again a bit of a blur, with everyone situating tents, weighing community garden donations, and setting produce on the tables. As we were readying the stand, a small line began to form, something that we had learned to expect in the previous weeks, although there was a higher spike in customers in the first hour this past week than there was in pervious weeks.

This week, along with our now-typical spread of squash, collard greens, kale, and various lettuces, we had small red potatoes, red and yellow onions, and the first peppers and eggplants of the season. It was these new vegetables that were the most popular, and they all promptly sold out. And once again, we received donations from the LaFarm community gardeners, Lynn Street, and Safe Harbor, which included squash, kale, and Swiss chard, other vegetables that also sold well this week.

One of my favorite aspects of the evening was the conversations that I had with two customers that ended with me writing down a few of their recipes. What I think I enjoy most about the stand is the sharing of cooking tips between and among the customers and the vendors. It’s especially encouraging when this knowledge is exchanged in the form of recipes.  What I hope to see in the weeks to come is more customers sharing recipes with us, which we can print out to share with the stand at large, so that we are providing the Veggie Stand  community with recipes that at least some of its members enjoy and would recommend to others.

The only obstacle that we encountered that day was an approaching thunderstorm, which caused us to close the stand a little earlier than expected– none of the weather apps that we were using had predicted it. We hurriedly began to pack up everything, with everyone becoming more nervous as the thunder became louder. Thankfully, everything was finished in time, and Casey, Andie, and I practically threw ourselves into our vans before it started downpouring. We left feeling satisfied that we had not only narrowly avoided the rain but that we had also provided produce to our largest number of visitors yet.

At our next stand, we’ll have more peppers, carrots, and cucumbers, along with the first of the tomatoes!

Veggie Stand #2: Thunderstorms and Lots of Basil

Last week’s market was just as successful as the first– we had 31 visitors in spite of the fact that it was pouring rain and thundering for most of the time. Even though we stayed for an extra thirty minutes after the worst of the rain had subsided, we were still surprised by the turnout. There were plenty of returning customers from the past week, but also a number of new people– it seems that word is spreading, and that there are plenty of people willing to brave some bad weather.

Harvest was up last week, with the cooler at the Urban Farm nearly full to bursting, which was awesome, but it did make loading our van… well, interesting. Casey and I not only had a quite a few heavy bins to maneuver, but many of them were also overflowing, which made them difficult to stack on top of each other. The van-loading felt like a bizarre version of car Jenga or Tetris, and although we did succeed in loading almost everything in one trip, it made me wonder if next time two vans or two trips would be necessary.

But once we made it to 10th and Pine, setup went smoothly. In addition to having harvest from the two farms (new items included red onions from LaFarm, and green beans and carrots from the Easton Urban Farm), we also had donations from the Lynn Street community garden and Safe Harbor, which included cabbage, Swiss chard, and, most interestingly, thai and lemon basil– varieties that the three of us previously didn’t know existed. With four varieties of basil, and cut flowers from the Urban Farm arranged by Sophia, we had an herb table that was especially dynamic and pretty. Even the rain was manageable– although we had a massive puddle that flooded the ground behind our second table, the tents kept us relatively dry; we only had to keep pulling on (or in some cases, punching at) the edges of the tent so that the excess water would fall off. We just had to be careful about spilling water on each other!

We were again reminded of the importance of conversation with our customers as we shared recipe ideas with each other, and several people expressed interest in cooking at or for the stand in the weeks to come. As obvious as it may sound, those plans would never have been set in motion had we not started some friendly conversation with our customers. And it’s between these conversations and the community garden donations that makes this market feel that much more like a broader community effort, which is really encouraging.

For the next Market at 10th and Pine, we’ll have (among other things) carrots, the first of our pepper harvest, and green beans!

Veggie Stand #1

So, quite a bit has happened since our last entry– the Market at 10th and Pine has launched this past week, and we’re already preparing ourselves for the next one. The first stand has given the three of us a much greater appreciation for all of the work and logistics that go into running such a thing; between communications, flyer distribution, obtaining all of the necessary materials, and timing, it takes a considerable amount of energy just to prepare everything. But in spite of our nerves (and the lack of thunderstorms that we anticipated), the first market of the season was definitely a successful one, with a steady stream of enthusiastic visitors.

This past week, we had lettuce, collards, kale, green garlic, breakfast radishes, turnips, a large quantity of squash and peas, along with basil, oregano, and parsley. One of our customers brought us a large bucket of purple sage from his garden after we finished setting up, a pleasant surprise that we added to the table. Miranda, Lafayette’s Sustainability Fellow, had a leaf-pressing activity set up, which was very popular with most of the children who came by the stand. We also had the help of Curt, the farm manager of the Easton Urban Farm, Sophia Feller’s husband, Professor Cohen, and volunteers Claire, Shae, and Molly with running the stand, which we greatly appreciated. Having volunteers definitely lent us confidence and helped us to be more efficient.

Now that Andie, Casey, and I have had the firsthand experience of running the stand, we are now more aware of what works well and what doesn’t. Seeing the popularity of Miranda’s table among the younger children reminded us of the importance of having kid-friendly activities each week, since it was something that kept them entertained as their parents shopped for produce. Another thing that we noted was the importance of having conversations with customers about how to cook with the vegetables that we have available. For future stands, we definitely want to have more culinary knowledge when it comes to all of our vegetables.

Now that the Market at 10th and Pine has launched, it comes as a relief to have gotten past all of the pre-stand anticipation. Although things are going to be moving more quickly for us now, it helps considerably to have run at least one stand, so that we can start to streamline our processes in the hope of bettering the markets to come.

Our next market (like all of our subsequent ones) will be this Thursday at 10th and Pine from 5:30-7:00!

Welcome Summer 2017!

With the market at 10th and Pine starting up in the coming weeks (save the date! July 6th, 5:30-7!) we’ve been doing a lot of farming in preparation for our market. There’s been plenty of transplanting, weeding, and watering between the Easton Urban Farm and LaFarm over the past few weeks, with many early mornings and a fair amount of back pain for us all. But our hard work is paying off– the plants look healthy and happy, and we’re looking forward to a nice assortment of produce in time for our first veggie stand.

This past week and the Urban Farm, Casey, Andie, and I harvested a lot of peas– 75 pounds (!!), some of which were given to the Kellyn Foundation for their farm stand. We transplanted eggplant, and were instructed on how to use the farm cooler for storing our vegetables in the weeks ahead.

Similarly, at LaFarm, we also spent a lot of time harvesting peas– we did a thorough harvest on both farms, because their season is coming to an end. After the peas, we divided and conquered for the rest of Thursday’s harvest, which included turnips, radishes, kale, and baby squash. There is a routine to the harvest that we are gradually becoming accustomed to– the rinsing, the weighing. The more we harvest, the more we are getting used to this general process, and we are slowly becoming more efficient every time.

This part of the summer is starting to feel pretty rewarding– all of the plants that we transplanted over the past few weeks are growing and thriving, and overall plans for the market are starting to materialize, too. We hope that you’re as excited for the stand’s launch as we are!

In the coming weeks, stay tuned for more farm updates and what veggies we’ll have available!