Sep 24, 2023·edited Sep 24, 2023Liked by Michael Woudenberg

A better egg-barter story….

We used to grow red raspberries for farmer’s markets. The best tasting berries you’ll ever have. Starting mid-end of May to early July each market, we’d bring about 200 pint baskets. Over the span of that time that would equal 1200 to 1500 baskets if you’re following along with the math.

Two of us retired people produced those by the way.

One looks at a basket of raspberries at a farmers market and never considers the work, for two people which was our case. Each berry is individually picked from a plant that has thorns and placed in paper pulp tills specially picked for market patrons who gasp and complain when berries arrive in plastic clamshell boxes. FYI. Berries, especially raspberries, do better and there is less ruined in plastic clamshells.

Those thorny plants, an acre of them, were planted by the two people, in a field that was cleared by hand, by same two people. Those baskets placed in a refrigerator at the end of the day only to be removed for transport to several eco-friendly coolers for travel to the farmers market long before farmer’s market patrons are ever up out of bed. Are you counting how many times those pint baskets are being handled?

The trip to market takes about two hours. Set up at market takes 45 minutes to an hour depending on the other items brought. Styrofoam coolers hold product longer but are quite horrifying to most buying raspberries.

Care is always placed in items situated on market tables because market patrons who have no clue about what it really takes to “nurture the planet”, will lecture on the horrors of plastic displays being petroleum based or some other hangup. Repurposed barn-wood shelves stacked on bricks is far better for these types…until the health inspector arrives.

Once you’re finally open for business, you know your berries will sell out within a half hour, even charging premium prices. You’ll always, and I mean always have customers who will say “ I’m going to buy 6 or 10, what’s the discount for bulk?”, my response, always was “that first till there was just as hard to produce and bring here as this last till here, it’s full price.”. They had read in the local foodie or green newspaper in the “10 tips for visiting the farmer’s market” article that haggling for bulk is acceptable and not insulting. Generally they didn’t walk away, and paid full price after the “farmer’s lesson in reality”. Chefs were the worst, tempers most of them, we didn’t work with many of them.

It really happens.

Good dose of wisdom in this piece. Thanks, I hope it is read widely.

Expand full comment
Sep 24, 2023Liked by Michael Woudenberg

I am not sure that I buy the premise here: "Why do we always need to show that we have power when we buy from the needy? And why are we generous to those who don't even need our generosity?"

In the example of the egg seller, no one forces him to sell the eggs at $2.50. Should he think the price is not fair, he can always refuse the sale.

On the point of "needyness".... how does one know who is truly "needy" and who is not? In brief interactions, there is simply not enough information. The egg seller could very well be a billionaire who enjoys selling eggs in his spare time, while the fancy restaurant owner could have a wife ill from cancer and be neck-deep in medical bills.

Expand full comment

Do people actually behave this way? I don't go to expensive restaurants. Even so the tip typically goes the employees, not the employer. I have heard of exceptions, but any exceptions I heard about would never get any business from me, and I'll bet a hell of a lot of other folks too.

I can see the skimping part, and I see the excess part, but I am not sure the same person does both.

Expand full comment
Sep 24, 2023Liked by Michael Woudenberg

Nice, I like this little "quick hit" of wisdom and observation.

"Charity wrapped in dignity" is a great phrase. I may steal it.

Expand full comment

This is the problem I have with the way people approach the idea of helping the poor. The assumption is that people who are poor can't manage money so they need to be given less of it. Whereas people with lots of money know how to manage money therefore they can be given lots of it. The reverse is often more true.

Expand full comment
Sep 25, 2023Liked by Michael Woudenberg

On the other hand, I just shopped at the farmers market. I wore a very nice raincoat, 40 years old, that I bought when I was working. They saw a well-to-do, white woman, and jacked the (unadvertised) price up. $1/apple in apple harvest season!!

I'm barely making it on Social Security. I'm so worn down by this. I paid my dues, always in helping professions, always making a "female" salary.

Expand full comment
Sep 25, 2023·edited Sep 25, 2023Liked by Michael Woudenberg

I go out of my way to go to the Farmers' Market in the next town over. Because I want to support our local farmers. It's more expensive in some ways, but I don't do it bc of dopamine hits or any desire to buy the expensive stuff, I do it to support the farmers and bc the produce is so much fresher.

Speaking of those in need and farmers' markets... there was a gentleman at one of the markets a year ago begging for money. Over time I got to know him and his story, and ended up raising $2.5K to cover some of his living expenses via GoFundMe.

I wrote a post about it in fact, that got little love: https://themuse.substack.com/p/is-there-a-ciriaco-in-your-neighborhood

We can all do little things like that by pulling in the community. It always takes a village to do what needs to be done.

Expand full comment