Like many Cornellians, I enjoy a home-cooked meal but can feel uncomfortable about where my ingredients originate. Sure, the big displays at Aldi and Wegmans are cornucopias spilling with fresh produce, but where did they come from and how did they get here? While pondering these questions on a drive to the latter, my eyes caught a glimpse of a heaven-sent sign on the roadside: “Ithaca Farmers’ Market,” with an arrow pointing to the right!
What luck! The brilliant Ithaca natives had once again developed a brilliant answer to a pressing question with this new way of knowing how your food is grown. Instead of needing to buy groceries, I could simply buy a farmer to grow my foods right near my home! I was immediately persuaded and veered sharply to the right to purchase a farmer of my own.
Upon entering, it was clear fellow Ithacans understood the utility of this new dynamic. The covered boardwalk teemed with visitors, all in search of the same elusive farmer perfect for developing the first half of a fresh meal. And oh, how those farmers beckoned. In this, the harvest season, they were abundant and plump, with many attempting to woo the most trustworthy customers for an adoption. I traversed the lane with a careful and guarded eye.
After a harrowing transit through the throngs, I finally saw him: the perfect specimen. A broad, burly man with a well-trimmed graying beard and a gleaming bald head, he cut a distinctive image—even across the crowd I could make out his features. His presentation suggested both power and determination and yet fine attention to detail, which was only enhanced by the tidy broccoli crowns assiduously arranged on the cart in front of him. I hastily cut across the market lest anyone steal defeat from the jaws of victory.
As I approached, a faint smile touched the corners of his lips. Could he already tell I was his proper proprietor? He sported a nametag on his left lapel that read Carl.
“This broccoli looks lovely, Carl,” I said, careful to make a good impression. “I would love to have some… close to home.”
He replied with a polite and well-oiled discussion of his current rates; I bobbed my head along but ultimately shook it after he fell quiet. “Of course, of course,” I said, “but can you grow other vegetables too? Peppers, for instance, and maybe some zucchini? And what about berries—any livestock? I plan to enjoy a balanced and healthy diet—if you’re to work for me, I’ll need to know you’re up to the task. Have no fears about lodging; I possess a fine kennel for you to sleep in. Should we discuss a payment plan now?”
From his apparent bewilderment, I worried I had startled him. And then worse: his once-inviting complexion began to oscillate between horror and disgust. “I’ll be right with you, sir,” he offered before swiftly walking to a hidden location.
Had I come on too strong? Would a less direct approach have been more effective? I began to replay the encounter in my head, looking for places I had erred, when I became aware of Carl again, this time at a distance through the crowd. He was flanked by two uniformed police officers as he pointed towards his cart—no, at me! I bolted for the nearest exit and ran through the winding parking lot, desperate to escape with my freedom.
Tragically, the Farmers’ Market failed to meet my lofty expectations of a revolutionized agriculture and consumer experience. All that hoopla, and for what—some $10 squash in a carton? Despite this apparent absurdity, Carl’s reaction laid bare that in spite of the name, the farmers are not for sale. I can only hope that the upcoming flea market will not disappoint me in the same way.