Why I Work for Farmers Markets
Posted On: July 27, 2016
by: Teri Wheeler
I once was asked “In one word – tell me what Pike Place Market (where I worked at the time) means to you.” Without having to think I said, “Opportunity.”
I now run the Shoreline Farmers Market. I get chills when I think about how cool it is to work somewhere that provides opportunity for the entrepreneurial spirit to thrive. A place where a mom can make “bath bombs” in her kitchen for financial independence. Where an immigrant farmer can make a living and a build a community. Where a budding musician can build nerves of steel and pour their soul into a song. Where a volunteer can smile with abandon even though he cannot speak or move without his aide, as they pass out shopping bags to grateful market goers. Where a young cook can become a chef and make the dream of starting a restaurant one step closer. That place, big and established like Pike Place Market, or small and growing like Shoreline Farmers Market, is a place of opportunity.
That’s why I work at and for farmers markets. I admit it can be challenging at times and would never describe the work as easy. The hardest part for me is trying not to internalize the rough patches vendors go through. I know when a farmer does not sell out of flowers there is a good chance the flowers will go bad and all of that work will go to waste. Or that when the skies get dark I see in their eyes the fear that the summer rains will ruin what is still in the field. Or that a slow week might mean no school photos for the kiddos that year, or any of many financial strains. It is humbling and a bit gut churning. And yet, those lows make the highs so rewarding. When there is success, there is no better feeling.
I admire the self-employed. I respect people that are willing to throw their hearts into what they love. Those that take risks so that we can all have a more diverse world. To grow our food in ways that does not poison us, even though they most likely will never quite make enough money. People that are willing to take risks to make our world a more beautiful place by making art for our eyes and souls.
It’s a given that farmers markets are placemakers. A place where a volunteer can share their most valuable asset: themselves. A place for families to gather and share healthy food values with their children. Meet up with friends for a meal and music. A place to connect to local nonprofits. Shake the hand of a farmer. A place to be you.
Think global and shop local. Support your neighborhood Farmers Markets. And please take a moment to honor the little fish in the big business pond. Your support will make a difference.
Teri Wheeler is the current manager of Shoreline Farmers Market in Washington State. Dedicated to farmers markets since 1979, she has worked in several capacities including as a baker, a busker, a crafter and serving as Market Master and Food and Farm Program Manager at Pike Place Market. She was also a board member of the Washington State Farmers Market Association and volunteers on her son’s urban farm Seattle.