Ever since she was in pre-school, my daughter has sporadically asked me my “favorite” of a long list of things – color, flower, movie. I’m not good at this game, because I enjoy too many varieties of life’s pleasures to single out any one from a category as the peak experience. As the Manager of the Certified Farmers’ Markets, parsing out my top fruit might be the trickiest, though delicious, challenge. In Southern California at the Farmers’ Markets, horizon-hued citrus and winter strawberries provide new year delight, followed by passionfruit and cherries in the spring and then summer cascades through with a dizzying array of berries, stone fruit, melons and mangoes. It’s an embarrassment of riches, and each option offers compelling enticement.
A story I read a few years back from the “Humans of New York” series made me pause and consider one particular contender. It was brief, just a paragraph really. A woman was straining under the weight of life’s burdens, to the point of wondering if there was any point in struggling on. But then she had an experience that revived her – eating what had to be a perfectly ripe pear. The article didn’t mention it but I’ll bet it was a Bartlett. Not as flashy (or dribbly) as a peak-of-season Galaxy Donut peach or seemingly impossible as a Nerf-football sized Keitt mango, in addition to being juicy and delicious the Bartlett pear offers the additional visual pleasure of changing color as it ripens on your counter. With a little practice you can prett reliably predict when it’s reached the moment when biting into it will dissuade you from darkest despair.
Educating the public about the benefits of eating seasonally by shopping the Markets, rather than succumbing to the temptation of grocery store Red Flame grapes from Chile in January has been a cornerstone of my job. It’s not too difficult for folks to eat local year-round in CA, when most of what’s offered on produce shelves across the US comes from within our state borders. The pear holds a special place in the calendar of seasonality. It shows up at our Markets in October, the month we move back outside - not because it makes sense but because we have to. The daily temperatures continue to be in the triple digits, but the Pavilion returns to civic uses, so we don our straw hats and bandannas and head back out. But even so, the return of the pear provides a promise – that by Halloween we *might* stop sweating. And so, we have a reason to keep setting up.
I think being employed as a ripeness evangelist for over a decade has helped me sense instinctively when the timing is right in lots of things. As I took glamour shots of sliced Bartletts on my kitchen table last October, it occurred to me that I’d worked most of the weekends my daughter has been alive and she’d be 14 in January. Maybe this should be my last season shepherding the farmers back out to the pavement pasture. At many junctures over the past 8 months, multiple indications kept confirming that momentary
thought to be a true sign of what should be. We had dismantled the pandemic barricades, recruited new farmers and vendors and welcomed back old favorites. It was one of our most successful seasons yet, despite the addition of many other outdoor events on the calendar competing for customers. The Markets will continue thriving without me, and since I’m not moving away, I can continue to enjoy their sweetness. My last day as the Market Manager will be May 28th , and now that I’m not afraid to pick a winner I will say with confidence that the Palm Springs CFM has always been my favorite.