LAST SO. CAL. EPISODE

Hello everyone and happy Thanksgiving.  Turkey day is tomorrow and I, for one, am looking forward to all of the amazing grub that I am going to be stuffing down my gullet.  Well that and getting to hang out with some great friends.  I hope you all have a great holiday weekend.  Now on to the end of my Southern California adventure.

Now the trip couldn’t be all work.  I did have to have some fun as well.  I got to visit with one of my brothers and his family and I timed my visit so that I could be there for his twin boys birthday which was great.  I was also able to meet up with some great old friends.  I went to Universal Studios with my friend Natalie and we goofed off for the day.  It was awesome to hang out with her, and be silly, and to go to the new World of Harry Potter section of the park.  Let me just say that I know it must have been absolutely horrible for me but I did have three butterbeers that day.  It’s a good thing I did so much walking to burn those things off.  If you get to go, you must have butterbeer.  The flavor is a mixture of butterscotch and marshmallow and if you don’t like that, you have no soul and I hate you.  In the afternoon, we met up with another dear friend, Leslie, and then Natalie’s husband, Jason, got there.  We all sat down, in the shade, and had a very nice chat.  All but Leslie went on the big Harry Potter ride which is a really fun roller coaster that has a fantastic mix of digital and practical effects but, I have to admit that as much as I love roller coasters, this one had me a bit woozy at the end.  The four of us wandered a bit and then Jason and I split off from the ladies and went on the Transformers ride and were able to chat a bit.  Finally, in the evening, another old friend was able to meet up with us.  Lorena is one of my best friends and I was very happy that she was able to hang out with me for a while.  Even though I chat with all of these people through texts and Facebook, I realized how much I missed them when we were able to spend time together.  So there you have my goof off day and now on to the last two markets.

MENIFEE

During the second half of my visit, I stayed with my brother in Menifee which is a small town about 90 miles inland from LA.  It is out in the desert and even in early November, it was very hot.  I found the Menifee Market in a parking lot near a shopping center.  It’s a small market run by a very nice lady named Pam.  She was a little leery of me at first and told me that there are people who spy on other markets and try to steal vendors away.  Once I convinced her that I was actually from Reno and that I was just visiting, she opened up and we had a very nice chat.  She was very open to me taking some pictures and talking with her vendors.  I really didn’t talk to too many folks at this market though.  I did manage to get blessed by a group of gentlemen running a Christian booth and they insisted that I take one of their signs with me so that I could “spread the Word” in Reno since we have so much sin here.  I don’t think that I’m the one to do that though and, for those of you who know me, you know how true that is.  After the quick walk around this market, I was ready to hit the road and go to the beach.  Pam also runs other markets in the “Inland Empire” and you can find her at the Sun City, Canyon Lake, and Corona markets.  The Corona Market is apparently the best one to visit according to the vendors but I didn’t make it there.

HUNTINGTON BEACH

Now this market is interesting.  First of all, it is right on the beach.  I cannot imagine a better location as you will see from the pictures.  Half of it us artisans and crafters and the other half is farms and food vendors.  The reason it’s split up this way is because one organization runs the craft side and another organization runs the food side.  The craft side was very full and there were a lot of different kinds of vendors while the food side was a little smaller but the food I tried was fantastic.  I ended up spending more than I intended at Heather’s Confections (heathersconfections.com) and Arizona Jacks (AZjacks.com).  Heather makes amazing brittle and Arizona Jacks is a jerky company with some of the most tender jerky I’ve ever had.  Both will ship by the way. There were a couple of farms there with some very nice produce, a juice booth, and crepes.  I keep forgetting to mention that I saw crepes at almost every market I went to.  Now I’m on the hunt for a crepe vendor because that was awesome.  So then I worked through the craft side and there were some amazing painters, photographers, jewelers, and more.  I ended up talking with Kelly who makes soaps and balms (tropicalbombbathbody.com) and Michael who makes custom nail files and purse hangers (crystalglass-nailfiles.com) for quite a while.  They filled me in on the markets in the area and told me some that I will have to visit the next time I am down there.  I also chatted with a guy (sorry I forgot his name and it’s not on his card) that makes art out of old surfboards.  Part of his profits go towards fighting Carcinoid Cancer.  You can see his stuff at wowsurfshop.com.

So that’s pretty much it for my trip to Southern California.  I only managed to get to a very small percentage of the markets down there.  On my next trip, I want to go back to LA and visit the Hollywood Market, West Hollywood Market, Santa Monica Market, and more.  There are literally hundreds of markets down there.  I used the California Farmers’ Market Finder app to find the markets closest to me and I would say that it is about 90% accurate.  There were some markets in the Inland Empire that were on the app but were not actually open so you may want to check the markets’ website if you can find it.  For my last picture, I just had to share my breakfast from my last day there.  Last minute, I was fortunate enough to arrange a meeting with another good friend in LA.  I had been a little bummed that I hadn’t been able to get in touch with Papa Joe Aviance, Google him if you want to see a great story, but the night before I was going to leave we set up a breakfast meeting.  He suggested that we meet at The Griddle in West Hollywood.  I originally wanted to get the French toast but he told me that I had to have pancakes so I changed my mind and ordered the Kahlua and Bailey’s pancakes.  Little did I know that one order of pancakes could feed a family of five.  So, if you ever have pancakes at The Griddle, make sure you bring at least one person to share them with.  Until next time, have a great Thanksgiving and, if you’re traveling, please be safe.

pancakes

 

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SAN DIEGO (DAY TWO)

As I write this, it is currently 30 degrees outside.  It seems like so long ago that I was enjoying the 80 degree weather in San Diego but it’s only been two weeks.

On my second day of touring markets, my first stop was the Hillcrest Market.  This is a really big, weekly market with roughly 175 vendors.  I had to park a couple of blocks away but it was free and I found a spot pretty quickly.  They have a good sized crew running this market and with 175 vendors and thousands of weekly customers, it’s easy to see why they need a good crew.  I was able to find one of the market managers right away and after explaining why I was there, he agreed to let me talk to the vendors and take pictures.  The only thing I couldn’t do was hand out the flyers for my app, Vendor Ferret (a free download for Apple and Androids by the way), but I understood and agreed.

The first thing I did was just walk this market.  Not only was there fantastic produce but there were numerous vendors cooking different types of food.  The smells as you move through this market take you to different regions of the world and most of them had my mouth watering.  I could have spent all day there just eating but I managed to restrain myself.  Ok, I did break down and eat a pumpkin desert from the attractive Transylvanian women and it was awesome.  One of the more interesting guys I talked to was Matt Huneycutt with MicroFarmsInc.com.  Matt is a military vet that has created a company which produces hydroponic farming using old shipping containers.  He is working to get this company off the ground and has great plans for the future.  You should check out his site and, if you’re in the San Diego area, go say HI at one of the markets he goes to.

I think the vendor that surprised me the most at this market was the marijuana delivery company.  Now, I am a pretty liberal guy and I really have no issue with weed being legal but I was just a little shocked to see this kind of vendor at the market.  I mean, a grow house would seem a little more appropriate for a farmers’ market since it’s an actual crop but a delivery company seemed just a little out of place to me.  The lady working the booth was really nice though and we talked for a bit about what they do.  She said that the market was working out as a great place to promote her business.

Just like the Little Italy Market, there is just so much to see that you should just try to visit them at least once.  They have a great website with a lot of information.  http://hillcrestfarmersmarket.com/

 

 

The next stop that day is just over twenty miles away from San Diego.  Solano Beach is a quaint little beach town with a great little downtown area.  Their weekly market is located in a parking lot right in the heart of downtown.  On my way to Solano Beach, the weather turned and it was a little chilly and rainy when I got there but it just added to the ambiance and I didn’t mind it at all.  When I arrived at this market, it took me a little while to find the manager but when I did, he ended up being a really nice guy who told me that the market had been operating there for twenty years.  The first booth I went to was the Farm To Cup booth run by Melinda.  Melinda was awesome and very fun and she gave me some watermelon juice that was freakin fantastic.  If you manage to get to Solano, make sure you say HI to her.  After spending a bit of time there drinking my watermelon juice, I strolled along in the drizzle to see what else was there.  I have to say that this was one of my favorite markets.  I ended up spending quite a bit more than I had planned but I got quite a few gifts for friends and family that I can’t talk about here because I don’t want them to know what they are getting for Christmas.  I also got some amazing tamales that Hans and Geno enjoyed later and tried some awesome cold brewed coffee from Red Hat Coffee.  I didn’t try it because I was already full from lunch but Red Oven Pizza brings out a pizza oven and makes them on site.  I wholeheartedly recommend this market for those of you who are either in the San Diego area or are planning on visiting.  You can find this market online and they have a nice list of links to their vendors here:

http://www.solanabeachfarmersmarket.com/

Next week, I move a bit north and talk about the Inland Empire and Huntington Beach.

SAN DIEGO (DAY ONE)

Hey there everyone.  So I promised to tell you about my recent travels and there is much to tell so I am definitely going to have to break it up into multiple blogs.  The first stop on my trip was San Diego.  I am very lucky to have great friends there so I was able to stay with Hans and Geno.  Hans accompanied me on the first day of visiting markets.

the-boys-at-the-pumpkin-patch
Hans and Geno

Our first stop was Pacific Beach.  This little, and I do mean little, market is in an amazing location right near the beach.  Unfortunately, on the day we went, there was only four vendors there.  We talked to a very nice lady selling almonds and she told us that sometimes they have a few more vendors but since the Little Italy Market is on the same day, it is hard to get vendors to join them.  I understand what she was saying since, sometimes, it can be difficult to get vendors when there are multiple markets on the same day or if there is a bigger one or two day event at the same time.   I ended up purchasing some of her cinnamon sugar coated almonds because they were delicious but we didn’t stay too much longer.  I had been told that the Little Italy market was big but I didn’t realize how big until we got there.

Our next stop was the Little Italy section of San Diego.  It took us a while to find a parking lot and, when I did, it took me some maneuvering to get my van in the tiny little parking space that we happened upon.  Now I know that I’m spoiled living in Reno but paying $12 to park seemed a bit high.  At least it was only a couple of blocks away from the market.

I was blown away when we finally walked up to, what I realized later was, the middle of the market.  It stretched for four blocks and was packed full of vendors and tons of shoppers.  I quickly found the market manager and explained that I was there to take pictures and notes for my blog.  She even agreed to let me hand out flyers for my app just as long as I didn’t impede business in the booths.  So off we went to explore this huge market.

When there are around 200 vendors, you get to see just about everything you can imagine.  My original plan was to just browse, sample, and talk to vendors.  Little did I know that I would leave with a couple of bags full of stuff.  We also sampled a whole lot of tasty treats and I would highly recommend the croutons, ice cream, and the tea.  There was also a huge variety of produce, meats, seafood, cheeses, crafts, and flowers.  You can check out the market on their Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/LittleItalyMercato/ and on their website here: http://www.littleitalysd.com/events/mercato.

We spent well over two hours browsing, tasting, and talking to the nice people working the booths.  I noticed that they have one of the same problems we do but with the huge amount of people that come through there every week, there is no way they can prevent it.  They post “No Dog” signs all over the place but people just walk their dogs past them with no regard at all.  You will notice this theme over the next few weeks since it really is a pet peeve of mine.  Most County and City codes restrict animals at things like farmers’ markets and even if you post the code like I do and like most of these managers do as well, people just ignore it.  I still just do not understand the need people have to bring their animals to events like this where there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people all together.  Believe me when I tell you, your pet is not enjoying it.  Most likely, they are just trying to figure out how to get the hell out of there.

Anyway, enough of my ranting.  Talking to the vendors, they are all very happy to be at this market and I can’t blame them since there are a whole lot of people there shopping.  The market runs year round, which they all pretty much do in So. Cal.  I can see the appeal of having year round markets but I have to admit that having a shorter market season is pretty nice as well.  The girl sampling ice cream, told us that she had moved to San Diego from Truckee, CA and that she was happy not to deal with the snow every winter.  Of course, one of the best things about year round markets is that you can get farm fresh produce in the winter.  While I love living in a place where we get real Winter, I do miss the incredible eats from the Summer markets.

So to wrap up this weeks’ blog, if you are in San Diego on a Saturday, I would highly recommend that you go the Little Italy Farmers’ Market but be prepared to spend a bit of cash.  I defy you to get out of there without buying anything.  You will spend at least an hour if you just browse but you can spend well over two hours there if you really shop and talk to the vendors.  All of the vendors were really nice and were more than happy to talk to us and tell us about their products and most of the crafters and packaged food folks will ship as well so you can purchase from them and have everything sent right to your door.  As I mentioned before, be prepared to pay to park and you will be walking a few blocks to get there. One last thing about this market.  I talked before about how big this market is but you will also need to be careful when walking around.  The cross streets that run through the market are open to traffic so you will need to be careful when crossing the streets since there are cars trying to get through as well and, sometimes, the drivers aren’t very patient with people crossing against the light.

Next week I will tell you about the Hillcrest Market which is also in San Diego but, in the meantime, enjoy the pics I took from Little Italy.

 

I’m Back From “Vacation”

Hello Everyone,

So, again, I apologize that I haven’t lived up to my end of the deal.  It feels like it’s been months since I’ve posted.  Ok, it has been a couple of months.  Damn, I’ve been lazy.  Well, not really lazy just busy as we all get from time to time and I have let my writing slip.

It was another great market season here but part of me is happy that it has come to an end.  There were a lot of great things this season but it was also hard both physically and emotionally for me.  We had some pretty windy days at the beginning of the season and I stressed my back pretty bad.  It never really got better during the summer but I’m now in physical therapy and I am finally getting better.

So after the season ended, I took a much needed vacation.  Of course I made it a working vacation and visited quite a few markets while I was travelling around.  I started my trip in San Diego and moved my way north up to L.A.  I also got to stay with my brother and his family a couple hours inland from L.A. and went to a couple of markets there as well.  There were tiny markets with only a few vendors and HUGE markets with well over a hundred vendors.  They all had good things and bad things that I noticed.  Of course every market has its issues.   I took lots and lots of pictures and had great conversations with market managers and vendors at all of these markets.  Everyone I spoke with was really friendly and they all were happy to share their stories with me.

I did have a secondary motive on this trip.  As some of you may know, I have created an app for market vendors called VendorFerret.  It’s a free download by the way.  Anyway, I did it so that you, the customer, can find out where a vendor is going to be, for how long, what they are selling, and even a couple of pictures.  The app went live this summer and I was hoping to drum up some customers.  Almost all of the market managers were happy to let me pass along my information which I was thankful for.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing my experiences and pictures with you.  I will also be sharing the contact info and links that I got while there so that you can purchase items from these folks as well if you want to.  Or, if you are in those areas, you can visit them and talk with them yourselves.

So with that, I bid you adieu for now.  I will be posting again very soon to begin telling you about my travels.

COMMON COURTESY

In this writing, I would like to discuss a little thing called courtesy.  Now, all of us say we want it but, I’ve found that, when there is a “easier” way to do something, people in general will take that easy way.  Let me start with a little background that got me to thinking about this subject.  This week is the first week of August and, here in Reno, there is an event going on called Hot August Nights.  When this event first started thirty years ago, it was a fun little event with some classic cars and a couple of 50’s and 60’s bands.  A few hundred people came out to support it and it was a great time.  Over the years, this event has become world famous and attracts tens of thousands of people, thousands of classic cars, and brings millions of dollars into our local economy.  All of these things are great for Reno but it can cause a bit of a problem for those of us trying to organize smaller events around town.  Now, I know that the organization and implementation of putting on this annual event are staggering and I can only imagine the time, effort, and planning that goes along with it.  It is truly amazing and they do a fantastic job.  But, with that being said, some of the issues an event like this brings to us smaller organizers can be a real pain in the ass and this is where, you the event visitor, can think about using some of that common courtesy and logic to help folks like me, the ones bringing you the events, in giving you the best possible experience.

So in doing a farmers’ market, most often, it is a weekly event and we can get upwards of 1500 people per week but sometimes it’s only a couple hundred shoppers that come out.  When we look at a location, parking is always a factor and we try to make it as convenient as possible for not only our guests but also our vendors to be able to get in and out of the venue.  Most often, at a farmers’ market, the vendors bring in full sized trucks and vans in order to bring their wares to you and we always try to make sure they can get those vehicles in and out of the venue easily.

We organize a market on Thursday nights at a downtown casino and, most nights, we have access to a great parking lot next to the event.  During an event like HAN, as it’s known in shorthand locally, parking is a valuable commodity and the lots that we normally have access to fill up with motorhomes and classic cars along with the trucks and trailers that haul them into town.  I arrived at the venue, like I normally do, about an hour before any of the vendors are due to arrive to make certain that everything is ready for them to come in and set up.  At this location, we are fortunate in that the casino has put up a huge circus like tent that we have the market in and I have a couple of access points where the vendors can bring their vehicles in and out to set up.  At these access points, we have posted “No Parking” signs to let folks know not to park their cars and block these drive ways.  Well, when I arrived, I found that my signs had been torn down and these access points had been blocked by trucks and trailers.  I was a little frustrated at this turn of events but, with the help of the casino’s employees, we figured out a work a round and created new ways for the vendors to get in.  This work a round required us to use barricades and cones to block off a handful of parking spaces and moving a section of fencing so that we could get the vehicles in.  We were set, the vendors started to arrive, and with a bit of direction were able to get set up.

So here is where the common courtesy lecture begins.  First of all, if and when you go to an event, no matter how large or small, please take into account that you are going to AN EVENT.  This generally means that there will be, hopefully if the organizer has done their job, more people than just you there.  What this also means is that there will probably be parking issues.  No matter how well prepared an organizer is, parking can be a very real issue.  So, on behalf of all event organizers out there, I ask you to realize this fact and to take it into account when you go to an event.  Do not remove NO PARKING signs or just decide that the signs don’t apply to you and park there.  Even if you don’t see the reasons for the signs, trust me when I tell you, there is one.  We don’t do it just to inconvenience you or to laugh at you while you struggle to find a place to park.  We WANT you at the event.  It’s the whole reason we do this.  If we didn’t want people there, we wouldn’t be doing this job.  Next, do not move any barricades or cones that have been placed to park in a space that is blocked off.  Again, you may not see the reason for those “prime” spaces to be blocked off but THERE IS ONE.  Yesterday, after we had made those adjustments and blocked off some spaces, I came out to check on the lot and found someone moving the barricades in order to park close to the event.  When I confronted them and asked why they would move those barricades, they told me they did it because there was nowhere else to park.  F-ING SERIOUSLY?  I may have used a bit of a sarcastic tone when I asked them what made them so special and why they thought this was an ok thing to do.  Again, their response was that they thought it was fine because there was nowhere else to park.  These people thought it was just ok to move BARRICADES so they could park there.  Common freaking courtesy people.  So then, after I told them there was no parking left in the lot and escorted them out, I decided that the only thing I could do was to stand at the entrance to the parking lot and tell people that the lot was full and, “I’m sorry, but you will have to find somewhere else to park.”, I would say that about 75% of those people I turned away treated me like crap.  Telling me where I could go or how they were entitled to park in that lot.  I had to remain calm and just tell them that there was physically no room in the lot no matter how entitled they thought they were.  I not only had to stand in the hot sun for three hours doing this but it took me away from my event and I could not help where I was really needed.

So last thing, if someone working an event gives you instructions, even if it’s something you don’t want to hear, remember, they are just doing their job.  They are trying to make the event go smoothly and have to do what’s best for the event even if that means they are making things a little inconvenient for you. It’s not personal.  They aren’t doing it just to be a pain in your ass or to antagonize you.  They are doing it for a reason.  Please, please, please take that into account and treat them like the hard working person they are. Chances are that they are “stationed” somewhere in the heat or the cold for a whole shift.  Sometimes they get to sit down but, most often, they are standing there for their whole shift.  They don’t get to just come to the event, have a good time, and go home like you do.  Also think about how hard it is to tell person after person something they don’t want to hear and about all of the verbal abuse that is being thrown their way.

Conclusion to this is, be nice and use common courtesy when dealing with all of these people.  They really are just trying to do the best job they can to make it an event that you will be happy with and will want to come back to.

Looking forward to your thoughts and comments.

OH BABY IT’S HOT OUTSIDE

So it is rolling around 100 degrees here in Reno this week and we’re supposed to actually hit 105 later in the week.  I have set up markets in the rain, snow, heat, smoke, and bitter cold.  It got me to thinking about how other market managers deal with interesting weather.  I have travelled a little bit around the U.S. and have been in places like Houston and Savannah in the summer time and was totally amazed at the heat and humidity of the deep south.  I can only imagine what it is like to set up and work a market when the temps are in the 90’s and the humidity is up in that range as well.

I’ve said it before but overall, we are fairly spoiled here in the high desert.  Summer temps generally don’t get much higher than 95 and it always cools down at night.  What we do have that is challenging though is wind and summer thunderstorms.  So far this season, we have had some tough days where the wind beat us up.  When you work inside a building, you don’t really think about the wind but when your “office” is made up of a canvass canopy, any wind over about 10 M.P.H., can not only be a pain in the ass but can actually be dangerous.  Add to that, there are quite a few vendors with product that can blow away.  Since it’s my job to make sure everything is running smoothly, on those days, I spend the whole time running around making sure that the tents aren’t blowing away or breaking.  About a month ago, we had a couple of very trying days with winds gusting to around 40 M.P.H. Canopies flew away, frames bent and broke, vendors lost product, and I pulled a muscle in my neck.  Eventually, it worked itself out but for the last few weeks, I’ve been dealing with a literal pain in the neck.  I wasn’t able to sleep very well since every time I moved, pain screamed through my neck and shoulder and I wasn’t able to turn my head very much when I was awake so that made driving and working very difficult.

Which brings me back to my original thought.  I know that we all acclimate to where we live but I just cannot imagine being outside all day when it is crazy hot and humid.  Personally, I don’t do heat very well, especially when it’s humid too.  I just don’t know how folks in the South and on the East Coast do it.  I applaud them though and I just hope that their summer is brief and mild.

And that’s just Summer which is, of course, the bulk of our season.  I know that in a lot of areas, they are able to produce year-round markets but, here, we only go until the end of September.  Now we do have a “Holiday” market in December and that has its own challenges here in the mountains.  Since our growing season is finished up here at time of year, we have to rely on California farmers to come up and participate.  Fortunately, that has not been an issue so far and they have been able to get over the mountains without issue.  Of course that’s only the first hurdle.  The past three years have been very interesting for us.  Three years ago, we had rain storms that lasted the entire time the market was going.  It got so bad that our Mayor went on TV and told people to stay home unless they absolutely needed to go out.  When you’re setting up a market, that is the absolutely last thing you want to see on the news.  The next year, we only got snow in town one day.  Guess which day that was.  Yup, it was the night before our market and we got about two feet of snow at the location of our market.  Last year it was actually pretty nice.  We didn’t get any snow until we were closing up shop and tearing down and then it came down with a vengeance.  I drove home at about 10 M.P.H. that night in a blizzard.  Good times.

Remember that we are always our there to provide goods and services to you.  We are there in the heat and the cold, the smoke and the clear air, the wind, rain, snow, and even the bright sunny days.  So keep that in mind when you are thinking about whether or not you want to go to a market.  We will be there for you, all I ask is that you continue to be there for us and I thank you for coming out to support your local markets.  Your local market is basically the backbone of small business and it takes all of us to keep it alive.

HAPPY 4TH EVERYONE

Hello my friends.  I know that it has been a while since I have written and I know that I promised to write more but, I have to say, it’s been a busy Summer so far and this is the first time I have had to sit down and collect my thoughts in a while.  Running multiple markets, working on a new app for vendors (VendorFerret.com and Vendor Ferret on iTunes and Google Play by the way), obtaining my state insurance license, working a bookkeeping job, and attempting to have a life at occasional points has somehow taken up all of my time.

So that brings us to last weekend which was the markets before the 4th of July.  In the week before the Saturday markets, I had vendors calling and asking if they should bring extra product because of the holiday weekend.  I hate to admit it but I couldn’t be much help to them.  I explained that I have seen holiday markets where everyone sold out and I have seen holiday markets where we are just staring at each other and wondering where in the hell all of the people are.  It’s one of those damned if I do and damned if I don’t situations.  I asked them to see it from my position and why I had to be vague.  If I told them that it was going to be busy and to bring extra product but then the market was slow, it would be my fault that they brought too much but, on the other hand, if I told them that they should bring less because the market would probably be slow and then there were crowds of shoppers, it would be my fault that they ran out of product and didn’t make as much money as they could have.  So I just told them to use their best judgement and not to blame me either way.

 

A great market day is a wonderful thing.  The weather was really nice, a lot of people came out to shop, and It turned out that everyone should have brought more product.  My strawberry vendor ran out by noon and my veggie farmer ran out soon after that.  Overall, the majority of the vendors had a great day which always makes my life a bit easier.

The next day there was an incident that made me very grateful that we have not had any serious problems at our markets.  You can Google it if you want to read the story but, in a nutshell, there was an event going on downtown and some jerkoff decided that he was going to drive through the closed event and when the people didn’t get out of the way fast enough, he made the brilliant choice to shoot a gun into the air.  It was then that our local police fired back and killed the guy.  I am so proud of our local PD for the way they handled this situation and that they didn’t let it continue or let the asshat take a hostage or something else horrible.  It was over in a matter of moments and they did a great job protecting the people who were there.  As a matter of fact, what could have been a situation where multiple innocent folks could have been seriously hurt or killed, ended with just a few bumps and scrapes.  I received some text messages asking me if this was my event and I was happy to say that it wasn’t.  However, it caused me to think about how I would handle this sort of thing if it happened at one of our markets and I’m still not exactly sure what my response would be.  I know that I would do my best to get our shoppers and vendors out of the way but knowing that it may not be possible and that someone could get seriously hurt is something that I may have to deal with.  I hope that it never happens but there are some crazy people out there.

Now even with all of the insanity that is happening in the world today and all of the nutjobs out there, we cannot stop living our lives.  You cannot live in fear and, I think, it’s a responsibility of all us to continue to go outside, participate in events, concerts, fairs, sports, markets, and the like and to live life.  As has been said many times and in many ways, Don’t Let The Bastards Win.  I think it’s appropriate to bring up the Founding Fathers and ask, do you think they would have stayed inside and hidden themselves away from the world today?  I was able to watch a documentary on them over the weekend and I can say, without a doubt, there is no way they would have done that.  They didn’t do that.  So continue to do the things you love to do during the warmer months.  Go to a concert, shop at a farmers’ market, participate in sports, and take advantage of all the fun things there are to do in the Summer months.  Be aware and be safe but get out there and Don’t Let The Bastards Win.

BABY ANIMAL DAYS

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We are getting closer to the opening days of our markets which means that farms are starting to ramp up.  On produce farms, this means that everything has been planted and they are taking care of the budding fruits and veggies and on farms that deal with livestock, it means that all of the baby animals have been born and are being cared for.  Last Fall, I wrote about one farmer that holds a really fun festival on their land.  Well, the same family invites the public to the farm two weekend in April to come and see all of the baby animals that they raise.  I went with some family, including my cousin’s two daughters aged 10 and 14.  Of course, the 14 year old wasn’t as into it as her little sister but it was a lot of fun to see the younger of the two play with the baby goats, be in awe of the calves, go on the hay ride, and just have a great time running around the farm.

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Silly me, I forgot to get some allergy meds before heading out there so between the breeze, the hay, and the animals, I got a little stuffy but it wasn’t too bad.  I have to admit that watching all of the little animals playing was very cute.  I was even able to visit with three plucky little goats that were separated from the farm because they had been out with the public for some time and they needed a little time away to relax.

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I was really fortunate because I ran into Natalie, one of the owners of the farm, and as we were talking it came up that she had some bacon in the freezer.  The Andelin’s have absolutely the best bacon that I have ever tasted and I happily paid for three pounds of it.  So when we went into the garage where the freezer is, there was a small pen where the resting goats were.  Allergies be damned, I just had to reach in and pet the little guys.  They were hungry and immediately latched onto my fingers thinking that someone was coming to feed them.

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Wherever you live, I would say that it is a great idea to do a little research and see if there is a local farm you can visit to see how it works.  It’s not only fun but very educational.  And if you are in the Reno area, I would highly recommend that you go out to the Andelin Family Farm during their Fall Harvest and the Spring Baby Animal Days.  As you can see from the pictures, it’s a lot of fun that you and your kids will really enjoy.  Here is their website where they post all of their upcoming events. http://www.andelinfamilyfarm.com

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OK 2016, KNOCK IT OFF!!!

So I’m going to go off topic this week.  Yesterday Prince died.  For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am basically a child of the 80’s.  I was born in 71 to young parents so there was some pretty great music and entertainment around me as a small child but it wasn’t until the 80’s that I really discovered music, books, and movies.  These were my formative years and while some may say that the 80’s sucked as far as music is concerned and, don’t get me wrong, there was a whole lot of crap that came out in that decade but it also brought us some monster innovators in the industry.  I remember getting my first Prince cassette, ask your parents about them if you don’t know, for my thirteenth birthday.  It was Purple Rain and it was awesome.  I listened to that thing over and over again.  My thirteen-year old brain enjoying the way the music made me feel even if I didn’t really comprehend the genius that was Prince.

It wasn’t until I was in high school, taking all of the music classes I could, that I started to really appreciate what true musical genius is. It was here that I was fortunate to have inspirational music teachers that really wanted us to know about music and the art that it is and not just how to hit the proper notes with the correct finger positions.  Maybe it was because they were just out of college themselves and still enthusiastic but they wanted us to learn as much about the inspiration of music as they did the mechanics of it.  We learned about jazz, soul, and R&B, alongside the classical and traditional.  We listened to Tower Of Power, Miles Davis, Maynard Ferguson, Earth Wind and Fire, The Beatles, and so much more.

Sorry, I’m reminiscing a bit.  Anyway, the main point of my ranting this week is that 2016 really just needs to quit taking away my childhood heroes.  David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Fry, Sir George Martin, Garry Shandling, Maurice White, and Abe Vigoda.  Seriously, Abe was in a ton of stuff that I loved.  These were all people I looked up to as a kid. I wanted to be an entertainer and even if I wasn’t able to live out the dream of performing for a living, I have been lucky enough to perform for fun in some pretty cool places and a lot of that has to do with the people who inspired me during those formative years.

If I had my way, I would make a giant hermetically sealed compound and move Sir Paul McCartney, Sting, Sir Elton John, Cindy Lauper, Sir Patrick Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Sir Ian McKellan, Christopher Moore, Eric Clapton, and probably a few more that I’m just forgetting right now, into it so that they can be safe and healthy until 2017.  We can live without these folks doing what they do for seven months, can’t we?  It’s been a rough four months for the entertainment world and I, and I’m sure a lot of other folks, am done with our bigger than life stars leaving us.  We need them to keep entertaining us and inspiring us.  So knock it off 2016.

COTTAGE PRODUCTS

Hello there readers.  Today I’m going to tackle another controversial issue with regards to the markets.  Cottage Products have become an issue in Nevada over the last couple of years.  First I guess I should tell you what a Cottage Product is.  Cottage Products are food items that have been created in someone’s home instead of in a commercial kitchen.  Most often these types of products are sauces, salsas, baked goods, and candies but it can be any food that has been prepared “at home”.  Up until a couple of years ago, the State said that you could not sell food items to the public that you had made in your home unless you had a separate/secondary kitchen that was inspected by the local Health Department.  Then, someone in the government had the bright idea to pass a “Cottage Food” law which said that you didn’t need that secondary kitchen or an inspection and that anyone who made a product in their home “CAN” sell to the public online, at events, farmers’ markets, fairs, flea markets, etc.  Unfortunately, some folks think that this means they are entitled to sell their products in these venues but what the law says is that you “MAY” sell your products not that we “HAVE” to allow you to.  It’s a big difference.

As a private company that is organizing markets, our main concern is that you, the buying public, are purchasing quality products that are safe for you and your family.  Now some organizers are allowing Cottage Products into their events and, if they want to take the gamble, I say go for it.  However, there are risks involved that we just don’t feel are worth taking by allowing Cottage Products into our markets.  All it takes is one person to get sick from something they purchased at one of our markets to create a publicity nightmare.  In this day and age, with social media the way it is, it wouldn’t take long for the word to spread like wildfire that someone got sick from something they ate from one of our vendors.  Add to it the possible litigation and the increased insurance costs of allowing those products into the market and we decided that it just wasn’t worth the risk or the cost.

We recognize that most of the people who make these products at home probably have clean houses and make delicious goodies but the problem is that the kitchens where they prepare their products are not inspected and the people making the products might not know what safe food practices are.  All it takes is the one vendor selling an item that makes someone sick because it was not prepared properly to ruin things for everyone.  How would you like to purchase and use a BBQ sauce and then find out that it was actually made in the bathtub of the person you bought it from.  True story by the way.  I mean, really think about it.  Are you or someone in your family allergic to animals?  Would it bother you to know that the food you’ve just paid good money for and are planning on feeding your family came from a household that has a bunch of cats that run around the kitchen and climb on the counter tops or that there are dogs that run and shed all over the house?  Have you ever been to a friends’ house and maybe they changed their babies diaper in or near the kitchen or dining room?  Have you seen their kids running around and grabbing things out of the fridge or touching things in the kitchen with dirty hands?  These are things we have to take into account.

I know that I am a pretty good cook and have made a whole lot of things in my kitchen that I have given to family and friends and I’m absolutely certain that there are a lot of others out there creating amazing things in their homes that people love.  One of the differences though is that I am actually Food Safe Certified.  I took a course that taught me the right ways and the wrong ways to prepare food for others to consume.  This also means that I have been taught how to make certain a kitchen is clean enough for an inspection but, that being said, I still would not expect to sell products made in my kitchen at home.  If I was going to sell food items, I would make certain I prepared them in a kitchen with a current health inspection.  Giving out cookies and pies at the holidays to friends and family is a whole different ballgame than opening a business and expecting someone to pay for those items.  It’s the same difference between amateurs and professionals.  One is a hobby and the other is a profession.  Now I know that people do get sick sometimes even when the food is prepared in a restaurant or commercial kitchen.  It happens.  But the fact of the matter is that in a commercial kitchen, the risk is minimized.   Those kitchens are not as exposed to outside elements as your kitchen at home and you, for sure, wont see a cat, bird, ferret, puppy, or kid walking or crawling around on the counters.

We know that a lot of the Cottage folks are just trying to start out and may not have access to a commercial kitchen and we sympathize but ultimately our main concern is that you, our customers, are purchasing the safest products available.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter so feel free to comment.