This is how local food should be

I was having a rough morning at the farmers market today. I had already stopped by in a rush just after it opened at 8 a.m. to have my pick of the seconds bin apples at Twin Springs Fruit Farm‘s stand. While in line, I glanced into my wallet to find a severe lack of cash — OK no cash at all, only a penny actually. This was not a problem at the fruit stand, which takes cards, but it would be at my favorite purveyor of vegetables: Jesús Ochoa of Laurel Grove Farms in Westmoreland. I’ve written before about him being the happiest farmer at the Mount Vernon Wednesday market… and the Lorton Sunday market.

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In a rush to teach a fitness class this morning, I decided I’d have to come back with cash later. I just HAD to visit Jesús this morning, since I had missed the market last week for an out-of-town writing assignment. So I came back mid-morning and parked, walking across the street to use a bank’s ATM. After more than a few blonde attempts (and asking inside), I realized the machine was not working. At the gas station next door (where a post-election victory party seemed to be taking place in the parking lot), I walked through a crowd to learn cash back would not be an option there either.

Well Hmmph.

I huffed back across the street and decided to tell Jesús I’d have to come back later. His response? “No, no, take now and pay me later.” “Really?” I was taken aback by his kindness, especially since the best help I had gotten from the last three humans was advice that I “take out an account” at the bank whose ATM was broken. Ahem, no thanks. I know Jesús has two daughters, a wife, a big extended family that all helps at the farmers markets. I know he works hard for this money, these few dollars I give him for heaping bags of produce. I know he had already braved a long drive, long setup and 40-degree weather all day to bring this produce to market (not to mention harvesting it). And he was offering me this kindness.

I thought I of the sweet potatoes I cooked a few weeks ago from his stand that smelled like the dirt they came from, and the jalapeños he grows that are so intense I have to use a quarter of what recipes call for. I just couldn’t wait another week for his produce, so I took the offer. He’s been seeing me twice most weeks for this entire season, so he knows I’ll be back. He had even set aside for me one of the rare cartons of brussel sprouts I’ve been begging for all month, and he’d been telling me all month they were still too “poquito, poquito.” With his signature wide smile, Jesús ran up to the truck to grab them for me. You know when you have had a few people be not-so-nice and then someone goes out of their way to bless you, it just bowls you over? Well, I thought I was going to cry.

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This is why I buy here, why every week I’ve increased the share of our groceries that comes from this little, round-the-corner, once-a-week market. I plan our every meal around it. I can’t believe there’s only one more week of this market, where I’ll undoubtedly buy a heap of produce and figure out a way to work it into our Thanksgiving meal, and into jars and freezers to make it last a bit longer.

I gave Jesús my usual, English-accented “gracias” today, and I hope to show him soon how truly thankful I am.

What have been some of your favorite farmers markets moments this season?

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