You Can't Eat Toilet Paper: How Santa Monica Farmers Market Makes Love With Food
Something truly wonderful has happened in the City of Santa Monica. While farmers markets were being shut down across the state of California and their customers were forced to languish in long lines at Trader Joes and Whole Foods, the Santa Monica Farmers Market did the opposite and innovated a new version of the Farmers Markets that has never existed.
Farmers markets are chaotic by nature and that is why I love them. A veritable moshpit of merchants and foodies. Hundreds of people walking around in the open air, talking and sometimes shoving each other out of the way to get the choicest cucumbers and the juiciest tomatoes. Any other shopping experience at a conventional grocery store is tame by comparison. There is just no excitement when I walk in those narrow aisles, under artificial lights with people who won’t even look me in the eye and ask how I am doing. There is no thrill of the barter (try asking for a discount at the register at Whole Foods and they will look at you strangely) or the “free sample”.
However, this old, traditional and much loved model simply would not be safe during this current health crisis. Just as a romanesco is a hybrid of cauliflower and broccoli, the Santa Monica Farmers Market needed to breed and evolve into a new type of market. One where we could still support our city and much loved farmer friends, but do it safely.
The managers Jodi, Christine, Jackie and other wonderful staff Kym, Rufiena, Marrick, Jim and Eric (and more) could have given up. I am sure as City employees there may have been lucrative stay at home pay and benefits. They could even have applied and likely gotten the $1050 a week Federal and State unemployment checks. They also could have just been lazy like other Los Angeles area markets and just waited to get shut down. Instead, they took the harder road and in one week began inventing a whole new type of market that is keeping us fed and healthy.
Trying to organize hundreds of farmers, wholesale vendors and shoppers on a good day can be more emotionally and physically taxing than herding cats. Yet, in one week they came up with new signs, pleasantly explaining the new 6 feet social distancing rules with a smile. They created lines and got down on their hands and knees drawing arrows with chalk. They dealt with snide remarks and rude comments from not nice shoppers who didn’t take our current situation seriously. I have never seen them so frazzled.
Most importantly, they put the health of themselves and their loved ones at risk. Why? Because they know on a deep level that the Santa Monica Farmers Market provides food and a sense of the community that literally saves lives. Let me say that again to be very clear. These staff members could EASILY get sick and pass on their infection to those they love but they CHOOSE to continue their good work and HELP US.
There are so many sad things that are happening around the world right now and it may be difficult to see what positive benefit, what silver lining could be on this dark cloud hanging low over all our heads. Maybe it is insensitive to feel happiness right now when so many others do not. But I do feel happy, because I am seeing so much love in action right now. I am seeing a culture change across the world where people’s priorities are getting realigned and they are focusing on what's important for survival. You can’t eat toilet paper. You can’t eat your cell phone. We NEED local, small family farms. We need a loving community to support us when life gets scary. We need to make love not fear. Santa Monica Farmers Market makes love with food and we are blessed to have them and all of the crazy, wonderful personalities that make up it’s extended family.
-Nathan Donahoe, CEO (Chief Eating Officer) Make Love With Food®