Over the last 20 years the Farmers Markets have been a fixed point in the structure of every month. On the Tuesday and Wednesday before a market I would sort out the Jam stock, plan the baking and prepare starter doughs.
On Thursday the starter doughs went through another couple of stages. Pastry doughs were prepared, and some bread doughs that needed an overnight rise were mixed last thing at night.
On Friday things were full on. Starting the baking early in the morning and continuing to quite late at night. Packaging the breads. loading the cars, preparing all the paraphernalia for market.
On Saturday it was an early start. Finishing the loading, setting off, unloading and setting up the stalls. This part was familiar. Each market has the right way to set up the stall. and you know what will fit.
The Jam making has its own time line. January is Marmalade time, and then a couple of months of sorting out the stock levels and emptying freezers before the new fruit seasons begin. All of this came to a halt. If there was no where to sell preserves there was no point in making them. I gave away a lot of jam to food banks to avoid them going out of date, and have waited until we have some idea of what the "new normal" might look like,
Over the last months things have felt so different. I often found that I had no idea what day it was.
I tended the garden - growing things from seed which I had not done for years, and started harvesting salad leaves daily because they have grown so well.
I carried on baking for a small number of friends and have enjoyed being able to do this without too much pressure to produce a lot.
I got used to the strangeness of carefully planned infrequent shopping trips, studied the different ways of making face masks and made a selection of them.
After decades of avoiding organised exercise we began getting up in the morning to exercise with Joe Wicks, and enjoyed it.
So now, when we are prompted to come out of lock down and restart the farmers markets I will admit to mixed feelings.
The reason I have always done the farmers markets, right from the start in Stafford and Stone is because I believe that it is important to have the option of growing and making food locally. During Lockdown a lot of other people seemed to understand this too, so I am coming back to the markets because I want to be part of the move to make local food stronger.
Am I nervous about coming out of the safety of self isolation? Yes of course. I am now in my late 60s. Just drawing a pension for the first time, so I don't have to do this. for may age I am fit, but there is still a risk to myself, and there is the more worrying greater risk of bringing infection home.
I am however going to give it a go. Given that the council runs the farmers market there is predictably a strong emphasis on risk assessments. and that has been helpful.
To protect my customers and myself I have been working through a list:
Buy a larger container for hot water for extra hand washing.
Get sprays and paper for cleaning any surface that is getting touched.
Buy more gloves to use for picking orders.
Buy a gadget for taking contactless payments
Plan a completely different layout of stock to ensure that customers do not help themselves as they have always done, I will need to serve them individually. (this may be a pain - but it is the best way to keep everyone safe)
I am also going to have to encourage customers to order in advance so that I can have their order made up for them to prevent their having to wait.
This is all going to be different, and people will need to be patient, but I think it is worth the effort.