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F-F-Farmers M-M-Market is F-F-Freezing in the W-W-Winter!

Posted 12/27/2017 5:26pm by Kinley Coulter.

     I just got finished checking out the forecast for Farm Market this Saturday. They are expecting a balmy seventeen degrees when we leave at 3 am for the market.  Ummm… Brrrr!!!  Farm market on the nicest days is just, well, nice.  Everyone is in a good mood… customers?  Happy!  Farmers?  Happy!.  Even the cash register is humming a happy tune as it steadily fills up with 20 dollar bills.  The birds are singing, joyfully, in the trees, there is a gentle breeze caressing the puffy white clouds in the brilliant, clear blue sky...and while we might sweat a little setting up, market itself is comfortable.  

     Farm market in hot weather presents some challenges.  The chief challenge?... keeping meat frozen, cheeses and eggs cool, and milk cold.  We tax our farm's big ice machine pretty hard to make enough ice to keep 5 ice tables heaped with ice on a sultry 100 degree day.  The two meat freezers on the trailer are set to -20 degrees so that the meat in the market coolers will stay hard frozen in picnic coolers at the market booth.  I don’t mind getting disgusting sweaty setting up (not much, anyway), but on the hottest days we’re dripping wet all day long.  Our poor customers need a lot of patience to put up with buying food from a perspiring farmer and trying to not lose their appetites.  

     Rain at market is mostly a drag because it’s an absolutely, positively, guaranteed money losing day.  We can stay fairly dry under our EZ-Up tents in even the hardest rain.  The big problem is that none but the most desperately hungry customers are at market on a wet day.  We are able to generate some ‘sympathy sales’ from people who walk by and feel sorry for us in our bedraggled condition and buy something they probably didn’t want or need… just to encourage us (or to be sure we have gas money to get home!)  To our shame…we do cultivate the sympathy thing, just a tiny bit,  by gazing forlornly at people’s wallets or purses as they hurry past in the rain.  We should probably put out a ‘donations’ pot on ‘monsoon' days.   :). 

     When the gentle breeze turns into howling winds… farm market becomes a real battlefield.  Other vendors' tents have been known to come rocketing down the sidewalk like angry cruise missiles… testing our resolve, courage and agility.  We watched in horror one gusty day as our own twin 10x10 tents, supposedly anchored down with heavy, steel dumb-bells, flipped over a shiny red, late-model Acura parked behind us and into the busy city street.  Miraculously, no-one… not even the Acura, received a scratch.  Dad always said, ’sometimes the bear gets you and sometimes you get the bear.’   That day… we got the bear!

     Cold January days test our resolve as well.  The alarm clock goes off at 2:25 am for our sole winter market.  I know… that is SO early!  I feel like I’m getting up before I ever got to bed.  What kinds of issues do farmers encounter at market in January?   Our milk and yogurt and cheeses try to freeze… believe it or not, we bury them in ice to keep them from freezing (it works!).  Eggs have to be kept warm in the truck or they freeze and crack.  If anyone figures out a use for 100 dozen frozen/cracked eggs other than feeding them to pigs, let me know!  

     The girls that faithfully show up all year long for market with bright smiles on their faces?  Even their steadfast smiles start to stiffen and their mouths curl downward as their visages freeze… We do run a propane heater and put nylon sides up on our tents in cold weather.  On the worst days (11 degrees is our record cold day at market) we run two heaters.  The heaters leave very little space for customers in the booth… that’s the bad news.  On the bright side… we don’t need room for many customers when it’s that cold.  Someone sharper than me at the business side of farming might ask what in the world we’re doing at market on a day like that?  That is actually an astute question.  But, if we didn’t go to market we’d be stuck in a warm bed until daylight… Hmmm, perhaps I should give this topic some more thought.  

     Oh well, we have committed to our faithful ‘foul weather’ customers that we will come in wind, wet, cold… the only thing that beats us is snow.  We only have one market truck, and if it is in a ditch with the greasy bottom side pointing upwards… Coulter Farms is out of commission for a while.  I haven’t figured up how many quarts of milk or dozens of eggs it takes to replace a diesel pickup… but it’s more than a few!