Back in my hometown, I had a reputation among friends of always going for the smaller brand. They teased (much to my happiness, actually) me about being "all natural," or always "organic." They knew that sometimes waking up at noon after a Friday night sleepover, I would probably have been gone for a couple hours already.
It was because Saturdays are when the farmers markets are held.
Living in Nashville, Tennessee, I have the perfect balance of urban and rural life, not to mention an amazing music scene. Off the top of my head, I could name five or six weekly markets all around where I live, yet my favorite remains to be the smaller Franklin Farmers Market.
Franklin itself might be the most beautiful little town in the south, not to mention the country. It's filled with history, incredible food, adorable boutiques, and surrounded by some of the most gorgeous pieces of farmland you'll ever stumble upon.
But at the heart of this little land of history, underneath the roof of a revived, rustic factory, little booths begin to pop up in the barely-risen sunlight. Farmers, artisans, and people with passions come from counties all over hours before dawn every week, just to share what they have sown: a woman with a beautiful little lavender farm, a smiling man who may have stumbled upon the best cheese recipe ever created, an Amish family with the best chocolate milk in the whole world and dozens of others.
I make a day out of it with whoever I can drag out of bed on a Saturday morning, that person usually being my mother. It only takes 20 minutes or so to walk past every booth, if you're going at a slow pace. But it takes my mom and me around an hour to go all the way around. Each vendor knows me by my face after going for as long as I have and I make a point to talk to each and every one of my favorite booths, and every new one I see popping up on the scene.
There have been a few special booths that have caught my attention recently. One of the biggest booths, a man who builds frames and creates beautiful artwork on display in a trailer, had two little tiny tables set up beside it. The man was going on with his business as usual and I stepped toward the little children tables and peered down at what they had on display.
I saw little tiny blankets and pillows sewn roughly into shapes and buckets of "organic slime" with all sorts of different scents. The little girl behind the table immediately had me sold as soon as she started talking. She had made "dolly blankets and pillows" that your dolls were sure to love. The little boy went off about his awesome cool sticky slime, and some even had little beads in it for texture!
They were so excited, and my mom and I could not stop smiling. The man, who I learned was their father, walked over and started talking to us. They had been so excited by what their dad did that they wanted to sell what they loved to make too so that they could make themselves happy while they made other people happy, "just like Dad!".
When the two were distracted, the man thanked us for listening so kindly to them, and to assure us that we shouldn't feel obligated to buy their products. My mother and I could not stop beaming and bought one set of dolly bedding and one bucket of slime. The children weren't as excited about receiving the money as they were that they saw us walking away with their little works of art and love, the labels on them scribbled in crayon.
There was another elderly couple there who had the most beautiful wooden carvings and stunning plants who I have talked to for a collective amount of hours the past year. They told me they woke up at 4 a.m. every Saturday to drive here from their town three counties over. They had the kindest souls I've ever met and have offered me a couple of internships. They told me that they couldn't afford to pay me in money, but could give me any of the plants I desired. They were both highly educated, and experts in multiple fields and any knowledge they could have taught me would have been priceless, and had I not been headed to college this year, I would have taken them up on their offer.
The honey couple. The Air-Force veteran and his wife, who sell their fantastic honey and bee pollen.
The mother of four who has children at my high school, who makes homemade salves, tea, and tinctures that have spared me from sickness and soreness too many times to count. Who beamed when I knew what Calendula flower was.
The goat cheese lady.
The fresh-pasta people.
The bone-broth man.
The woman who makes jewelry out of old guitar strings.
The man who makes soap.
The custom sign making man.
Every time I see these people and everyone else at the farmers market, there is nothing but joy on all of our faces.
My mother and I probably spend an outrageous amount of money for the gifts we buy there for what we could find at Publix or on Amazon, but we do not regret it one bit. Nine dollars for a huge loaf of bread that I could find for two at Costco? A lot of people would scoff at that. But why it is so much better is that I am not spending nine dollars for just a loaf of bread. That money is going back to the passion that brought that baker, that farmer or that stay-at-home mom to the market in the first place. That money is going to the rainy day fund of the older couple that is saving for the expensive plane tickets back to their hometown for their 50th high school reunion.
That money isn't paying for some CEO's fourth vacation home. It's paying for a daughter to go to dance lessons. It's paying for that little boy's boy scout trip. It's giving back to the community that I love to see every Saturday morning. It's giving more, for happiness above everything.
Go to your local farmers market, open your eyes and your hearts, and feel, not just see, what I mean.