What a Wonderful Journey

There’s a saying that I believe most people have heard and hopefully most people follow: Life’s a journey, enjoy the ride.

And that’s what Shawn and I have been doing at the Boston Public Market for the last three plus years. We set up our Corner Stalk Farm stall when the Market opened in July 2015. And now with a bitter/sweet decision we are stepping away and closing the doors of the retail operation. We were among the first tenants at BPM. We helped forge the way opening the doors to a newly constructed building space and moving in at the same time with 37 other vendors. Hectic, exhausting, and exhilarating can describe the initial start. Along with the numerous discussions related to heat and air conditioning, loading dock schedule, BPM who’s who, opening and closing hours, ordering for the Christmas rush, weekly and monthly vendor meetings, and the endless talk of should there be more seating came the exciting part of getting to know so many terrific owners, their enthusiastic employees, and multitude of amazing customers.

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Along with establishing our place at the Market, I had to step way outside my comfort zone and learn a whole new skill set related to business. Being a retail shop owner has given me a much broader and humbled appreciation for the small business industry. It’s hard work!

But Corner Stalk Farm is not going away. It’s time to pursue the next phase of the business plan and that is to concentrate on expanding the wholesale side of Corner Stalk Farm. We have connected with extraordinary chefs at some of Boston’s finest restaurants. Their validations have allowed us to take this next step.

It has been so very exciting to be part of this innovative venture, establishing a retail operation at the Boston Public Market. I am quite proud to be a ‘founding member.’ Hmmm, does that give me a lifetime vendor discount?

Yes, it’s been a wonderful journey. And with all the ups and downs, accomplishments and headaches, we have enjoyed the ride.

Where will the road take us next?

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It's a fun place to be

So, I was telling you what I truly enjoy is meeting the people at the Boston Public Market. Interacting with Corner Stalk Farm customers and other BPM vendors makes for fascinating conversation. I love learning about where they live, their travels, food interests, families, careers, and dreams.

Here are a few of the people I spoke with just this week:

~The American couple living in northern India who both teach at an international school.

~The handsome man from the North End who reminds me of my brother.

~The woman from North Carolina staying with her friend while she begins her cancer treatment at Mass. General.

~The delivery guy who brings products to another vendor and really is an amazing artist. Check out his website: danraoart.weebly.com

~The woman with the gorgeous scarf she just bought in Laos and can only buy a little bit of lettuce because she leaves this week for London.

~The elderly gentleman who wanted to tell me he has many friends who do hydroponic gardening and did I know anything about this new way of farming.

~The group of seventh grade students from a near by high school who arrived like locusts: loud, frenetic, and wiry and truly lovely to watch; early adolescents at its finest. 

~The mother from Brazil visiting her successful doctor daughter.

~The young vendor near me who works part time, goes to school full time, and juggles life's struggles as a beautiful woman in her twenties. 

~Several local chefs

~Lots of East Boston residents

~Friends from my home town

~Babies and babies and more adorable babies.

It’s a fun place to be.

 

 

The Gentleman From Texas

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Recently I took a break from working and was enjoying being on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. As I was walking back to the Market, a gentleman from Texas stopped me and asked for directions to Quincy Market. As I was heading in that general direction, I suggested we walk together until I could visually point him to the area.  We chatted about his reason be being in Boston; he was here for business. He continued to tell me how much he had fallen in love with Boston. Even though he was aware of the history origins of the area, he was in awe with the depth of history surrounding every corner. He loved the diverse culture. And loved the friendliness of the Bostonians.  This always makes my heart feel good as I try to go out of my way to be welcoming, trying to debunk the reputation that we are not. He told me he would definitely be returning with his family.  

As we approached the corner of Hanover and Congress Streets, I pointed out City Hall plaza, the Holocaust Memorial Site, the Custom Tower in the distant, and Faneuil Hall. Being a former early American history teacher, I could give him the quick history synopsis of what we were seeing.  

I asked him if he had been into the Boston Public Market. He was fascinated that withtin the hub of Boston we have an indoor, year-round market featuring New England farmers, fisheries, and prepared food vendors. Of course I directed him to visit here first. I suggested for a New England experience head first to Red's Best to learn about local fishing industry, Jasper Hill and Appleton Farms for traditional New England cheeses, Red Apple and Union Square for authentic donuts. But of course, he must finish his visit at Corner Stalk Farm. I could tell him all about my environmentally controlled, high tech, urban farm. 

As he and I parted, I looked around at the multitude of tourists, residents, and business people swarming through the city. What a very exciting place to be. 

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Meeting Fabulous People

I've come to realize that I'm not a natural born farmer. A gardener perhaps but not a farmer. This year's tomato plants are in and my flower garden is starting to bloom nicely. I'm not even an authentic foodie. Although, I do enjoy discovering new restaurants, and I'll eat at anyone's house who invites me. Shawn is the farmer and he is the foodie He's always picking up a new item at the store. And those that know Shawn know he's  a very good cook. Lucky me!

But what I do genuinely love is meeting people at the Boston Public Market. And I love discovering their stories. Everyone has a story. First conversations reveal the cover: name, where they live, perhaps occupation. But open the book and there are many fascinating stories. I hear stories about their families. I love hearing about travel adventures. And often there are stories about being in the kitchen and an old family recipe or a newly discovered meal. I share about my family and my hometown of Marblehead and my Corner Stalk Farm home of East Boston.

Corner Stalk Farm has many loyal customers. And we are truly grateful. They like our lettuce, and they get their Lettuce Lovers Card punched with each purchase, and we ask them to join our family of CSF.

 Elizabeth Warren stopped by for a visit at the Boston Public Market!

Elizabeth Warren stopped by for a visit at the Boston Public Market!

Tom often comes and shares his stories but he also shares his books with us. All delightful, exotic food books. Not just cookbooks, food books. The one I have now is The Singapore Heritage Cookbook: Past, Present, Future. Certainly there are dazzling recipes. Shawn pours through the book to figure out what he may try cooking. But I love the photographs. I get lost in the color and design. The images capture my delights. When I return this to Tom, I know he'll bring us another. And he'll tell me a little bit more of his story. Thank you, Tom.

I will be telling you more stories.

Flag Day

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Today is Flag Day, June 14. Not much of an official holiday but still, our flag has meaning and significance as a symbol of freedom. The customer who gave me a story this week stopped by Corner Stalk Farm and chatted with me for a while. He was an older gentleman and was wearing a cap stating "Veterans for Peace."

He asked me lots of questions about my farm. We exchanged pleasantries. And as he was about to leave I told him I liked his hat. He slowly pointed to it, and quietly commented, "Too many wars, too many wars." He didn't buy anything, but he did leave me a deep sense of peace. It was worth much more than a purchase of a package of lettuce.

Given that today is Flag Day and thinking about the recent acts of hate in Orlando against the LGBT community, it's appropriate to think about how our actions reflect peace. I'm thankful this man stopped by my shop to share with me a bit of his story-even if for just a moment-leaving behind a message of peace.