Since June, my booth at the White Rock Farmers Market has been next to a man selling garlic. (@abby_garlic on Instagram!) He has two tables, filled with black plastic crates, filled with giant garlic bulbs, the long green stems still attached (it keeps them from drying out too quickly). Throughout the day, he sorts his inventory into pre-made bundles in plastic bags and stacks them into the crates on the front table. He sells the bags for $5 or $10, and the only difference is the size of the bulbs. He only takes cash. The first week he was at the market, he didn’t even have a sign, just hung bulbs up around the tent as decoration. He always has a line. The first week, he sold out before 2pm.
(I bought this $10 bag this week to roast and bake into my bread for next week.)
There is untold benefit in doing one thing and doing it well. This is the way some people still shop: buying meat from a butcher, fish from a monger, cheese from a dairy. I’ve long yearned to be one of those people—a specialist. I wish I could have one great passion in my life and devote my hours to perfecting it. But alas, it’s not the way my brain works. In fact, it’s so not the way my brain works that my Bachelors degree was awarded for General Studies because I couldn’t pick a major. Every class in the catalogue sounded interesting, so I took them all: linguistics, German film, sociology, creative writing, Western civilization, post-modern literature AND Shakespeare.
When Megan and I first talked about our shared dream of opening a bakery, we called it The General. (You can download our zine here.) It worked because it could be a character and a logo, but it was also a description of us: two constantly curious brains who have never been able to choose a single path. Megan figured out how to make this work in marketing, where she helps artists guide their projects. She gets to work in every medium and every genre of storytelling.
I get to keep plugging away at the bakery dream. It’s easier for me to hang onto those kinds of dreams because she lives in the US, and I live in Canada. I’ve never had to worry about taking a job for the health insurance. In the middle of this pandemic, the government is paying un-and-under-employed workers $2,000 a month, which is more than I usually make at my day job. It’s a gift I don’t take for granted. It’s the chance to make a real go of our bakery dream, without the stress of everyday living.
My particular dream is not just a bakery. A few years ago, I wrote a zine wherein I explained what I really want is a little shop, a physical space that I can make into what I want whenever I want. A space that can be a bakery, when I want to bake, but also a classroom when I want to teach writing, a studio when I want to do yoga, a gallery when I want to draw on the walls. I want to sell my bread, as well as my zines, my drawings, my sewing. Even garlic guy can’t sell his garlic all year long—it doesn’t grow all year long. There are seasons for art, just like vegetables and fruits.
But after five Sundays at the farmers market, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that my dream of a general store is too much for one table two times a month. It’s a confusing message for customers when I have mere seconds to grab their attention and convince them to stop for a second look.
Yesterday, at the halfway mark of the day, I cleared everything off my table that wasn’t bread and sourdough starter. No zines. No salt. It’s not a difficult lesson to understand; focus on what sells and try to sell more. But it’s a difficult lesson to accept. I want to sell my zines, too. I want people to care about the things that I care about. But I gotta get their attention first.
Next week, July 15th, I’m going all in on sourdough. My bigger dreams will have to wait until I get that little shop.