A few weeks ago, I was on an early morning walk–trying to beat the dreaded heat (78F) of midday in San Diego County and hoping to see few people on the sidewalks so that the awkwardness of social distancing wouldn’t force me off the concrete and into traffic. The May gray was holding strong, providing a comforting coolness to the air as it blew across my face and making the scenery around me just bland enough to be uninteresting.
A handful of blocks down Midland Road, in the middle of the street, the tips of white canopies came into view. Perplexed, I wondered what was going on. What event could possibly be taking place? We’re in the middle of a self-isolation stage. Squinty-eyed, I hoofed it towards the hullabaloo.
To my disbelief, there were dozens of people setting up shop for the Poway Farmers Market. I hadn’t heard anything in the news about any San Diego famers markets being open. It made no sense. We’re not allowed to congregate with more than 10 people, but we can socialize at an open-air market?
And that, perhaps, is the key phrase. “Open-air.” Since there’s ample space and ventilation to social distance, if vendors abide by strict regulations (wearing personal protective equipment like masks and gloves, providing hand sanitizer, not allowing customers to touch the products, not providing samples) and if consumers also abide (PPE, not touching products, maintaining 6-ft. social distance between vendors and other patrons), then the likelihood of coronavirus transmission is minimized.
I made a mental note to myself to revisit the Saturday market in a few weeks with my family.
So today, we followed through with our plan. And I’m so glad we did. Under a cerulean sky, residents and visitors came prepared with their PPE and reusable shopping bags to peruse and purchase the tasty treats that local vendors worked hard to harvest, bake, cook, and curate for their discerning clients. A chorus of bubbly conversations and joyful laughter seemed to come from all directions, from adults and children alike. Despite not being able to see anyone’s full face, it was clear that everyone was happy to be outside, ready to smartly and safely interact with other people.
As I went from stand to stand, I chatted with the vendors, trying to get a sense of how things were going for them. For some, business was booming. The market was only fully closed for one or two weekends. Once it re-opened, certain merchants got right back into the swing of things. For others, it seemed that they were doing what they could to stay afloat in uncertain waters. Their face masks might have been protecting them from virus, but they could hardly hide the strain of struggling to make ends meet.
Still, everyone had some sense of optimism. Maybe it was the saturated sky, the gentle breeze, or the warmth of the sun. Or maybe it was the extra kindnesses that customers showed them–the jovial greetings, the smiling eyes (“smeyes”), and the profuse thanks that people offered. Gratitude was in huge supply at the farmers market today, and it moved in all directions.
It’s amazing how grateful one can feel about simple things–seeing other human beings, enjoying wonderful weather, earning a living, meeting new people, helping another person, or just being alive. Maybe it takes something drastic to remind us how good most of us have it. And perhaps sometimes, it just takes a stroll through a farmers market.
Join me on my stroll through the Poway Farmer’s Market in the video below, and meet my new friends Elliott of Chez Elliott and Francesco and Joseph of D’Acquisto Farms.