right around the time i started going to farmers markets regularly, i met my friend linda. we live in the same loft building downtown and we were both at the pool one day. we started talking about food, cooking, downtown restaurants and bars, and of course farmers markets. we even headed out to the newly opened restaurant first + hope to check out their thursday farmers market happy hour one evening. she would talk about how she didn’t really enjoy her job and wasn’t making enough money at it, and was looking to do something else. soon there after the farmers market fairy was born.
right around the same time last fall, i had a surprise appendectomy, and found myself without groceries or the energy to get myself to the market, so i used linda’s service. i simply emailed her a list of things i needed the night before, and around noon the next day she showed up with the goods. i’ve got to say, even though i love shopping for myself and enjoy shopping for food more than most things in life, it was really awesome to have fresh fruits, vegetables and meats delivered to my door.
i wanted to see what a day in the life of the farmers market fairy was like. we decided i should shadow her at the wednesday santa monica farmers market, which is not only one of the biggest, it is the market that most chefs go to. i have been to it once before, but being that it is mid-week and i am usually working, it is a hard one to get to from downtown. we left early. just after 7a linda knocked on my door.
we talked a bit on the way.
wf+t: tell me about organic certification.
fmf: organic is a term that big corporations can afford to use, and small farmers can’t. i’d say 95%, if not more [of the vendors] at this market and all the markets i go to are organic, or organically grown, they just can’t afford the certification.
wf+t: you just started doing gift bags?
fmf: i basically shop for people and put their gifts in a bag. today it’s a thank you gift…i’ve done get well, i’ve done anniversaries. i spent 40 minutes [with a client] coming up with a list that was in their budget. i put everything in a brown recycled [trader joe's] bag…put a note in it from myself explaining that it’s not from trader joe’s, and they are items from the wednesday santa monica’s market. this particular woman i’m shopping for today mailed a card for me to include in her friend’s gift bag. how much more personal than that can you get? it’s just so thoughtful.”
(eventually she is hoping to have her gift bags delivered in canvas re-usable bags with the farmers market fairy logo on them of course.)
wf+t: why do your clients want your service?
fmf: they like good food and are often health conscious. they prefer to eat local and organic food, but just can’t get to the farmers markets themselves. it’s fun for me, but to some people it’s a real chore, can be overwhelming, or it just doesn’t fit into their work schedule. i know what’s in season and i know how to choose the best quality items. i’m also as particular when choosing their produce as i am for myself. virtually, i am their eyes, hands, and ears. i’ve had some clients who are a bit apprehensive at first, but once they realize they can trust me, it’s a really wonderful connection. quite often, a good portion of their grocery list is left up to me. this way, i’m able to expose them to the most exciting and delicious things at the markets. there is quite a bit of communication before each trip as well. i check in about likes, dislikes, and quantity. i don’t want anyone to be disappointed.
wf+t: i would think that a lot of chefs would love your service.
fmf: i’ve had a few chefs as clients. one woman wanted to follow me to make sure i knew what i was doing…and that’s cool. things can get pretty specific. some clients want 7 avocados, but don’t want them at the same ripeness.
with her signature bright red streaked hair and sundress, she hits the markets with a tricked out rolling cart, that has stacked crates inside, and is just about as big as she is. she has her system all worked out. linda has been shopping at farmers markets since she moved to los angeles about 10 years ago, so she knows the vendors and farms well. she definitely has her favorites, but as she says:
“as the seasons change, so do my favorites.”
we stopped at some of her summer ones:
harry’s berries- strawberries, tomatoes, french green beans
“i know that people do need to have strawberries from harry’s berries. they just have to have them. if they are going to give a gift, they have to have some of those berries. they are perfect every time.” -fmf
windrose farm- garlic, carrots, potatoes, herbs
“don’t even get me started on garlic…windrose has 10 different kinds of garlic right now.” -fmf
schaner family farms- herbs, shallots, unusual eggs
i am kicking myself for not taking home any of that chocolate mint. it smelled so damn delicious! i hope it’s there next week.
regier farms- peaches, nectarines, blenheim apricots
“i usually don’t buy anything without tasting it, when it comes to fruit. if they can’t give me a sample that means [the fruit] is so fucking good that they can’t give it up ’cause they don’t have a lot, but i’m pretty aware of who those vendors are. i don’t usually eat breakfast [before] because i end up sampling so many fruits.” -fmf
weiser family farms- potatoes
i picked up some ‘laker bakers’ that are a hybrid of yellow and purple potatoes.
apparently i was right next to michael voltaggio while looking at their goods, but i didn’t notice him. i guess their beautiful produce was prettier than him and his tattoos…surprising, i know. linda told me later when she pointed out suzanne goin. it really is the chef’s market.
maggie’s- lettuces + herbs
i know maggie’s from the other markets i go to. i have had her herbs last 3-4 weeks. i usually use them up before that, but i have gone out of town for an extended time and come back and have been able to still use them. at $1 a bunch, for easily twice as much as you get at a grocery store in those little plastic containers, it’s a deal.
forbidden fruit orchard- blueberries, blueberry syrup with a hint of thyme
they didn’t have any of the syrup today, but would have gotten some if they did. sounds wonderful!
adams’ ranch- olives, oil, balsamic
after tasting them, i had to bring home some lemon infused extra virgin olive oil and balsamic for myself.
now on this particular day, her clients didn’t need any meats, but there are plenty of vendors with an array of choices, from chicken and ground bison to goat and rabbit. she will also make trips to specialty butchers such as mccall’s meat + fish co and lindy + grundy if needed.
once linda checked her lists, we headed to her car with all the goods.
linda always has her phone on her while at the market, so if a client forgets something and needs to add to the list, she is easily able to accommodate them. for example, we were in her car just about to leave when she got a text from a client for hot peppers, so we hopped out and quickly went to a vendor that she had seen with jalapeños, pasilla, and anaheim peppers.
it was close to noon as we headed off to deliver the gift in the pacific palisades. today’s gift included: almonds, garlic, asparagus, strawberries, sweetheart tomatoes, basil, salad greens, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and a lovely bouquet of flowers. she did another gift recently for a business man in town from nyc. his friend wanted to get him healthy breakfast things, so she got him granola, fruit, and raw milk from organic pastures. every gift is different depending on what the client wants, which also makes it that much more personal.
the last stop was her client crystal in mount washington, who was nice enough to invite me into her home as linda gave her the goods. she had a specific list for linda, but also wanted her to just pick some fruits and vegetables that looked good. crystal also likes to try new things, so linda tries to get her items that are a little different. today she brought her some of purple haricot vert and baby celery.
crystal was giddy with excitement as linda showed her items. clearly this busy mom was very appreciative of the time and thoughtfulness linda gave to her shopping. honestly, i think anyone wanting to shop at farmers markets, that may not know the farms and vendors, or simply doesn’t have the time, would love linda’s service. i think her gift bags are an extremely personal and thoughtful idea, not to mention an environmentally conscious option.
i was certainly glad that we sampled and tasted as much as we did during the morning, because it was nearly 2p by the time we got back downtown, and i was starving. i decided to try one of the tomatoes i got, and made a blt…yup, it’s definitely tomato season. happy summer!
the farmers market fairy works in the los angeles area and can be reached at: 213-304-8682 or firstname.lastname@example.org