When I posted on Facebook that I was psyched to get a volunteer shift at the Heirloom Gardens booth at the Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market, my friend said I was easy. Really? The currency for working is two heirloom plants for every hour worked. With very ambitious garden plans and a limited budget, this gig seemed worth it to me and even better when one of my gardening partners also got a shift. After four hours of pretty hard work on a very comfortable, sunny Saturday, Natalie and I took home 16 plants, mostly tomatoes and peppers, for our community garden. Score!!!
This adventure started about a month ago when I received an email from Heirloom Gardens looking for volunteers to staff their plant booth at the Farmer’s Market. I figured that I must have gotten on the list when I joined their meet up group. The free plants offered for work hours sounded great so I emailed them back right away. But, not soon enough. The shifts had filled up immediately and I was wait listed. A volunteer wait list? Who knew? When an opening popped up this week, I jumped right in and motivated Natalie to join in.
Carving out four plus hours in the middle of a Spring Saturday required some negotiation. Two of my children had back to back sports events straddling mid-day and my husband had to agree to release me from my family obligations. Check. And the first work day of the season was happening at my community garden with an added bonus: free homegrown tomato plants were being shared by a gardener in the morning. I knew I didn’t have to do the work day but I swung by early to say “hello” and snag a tomato on my way to the farmer’s market. Check.
I love farmer’s markets so it was cool to check out a new one. The market at Cherry Creek seemed to have much more variety than my local one at Aspen Grove. More upscale food booths, fun products and lots of bakery. When I was released for a 15 minute lunch break, I sought out the food vendors and was excited to find a Filipino food stand. The booth featured foods I’d grown up with — adobo, pansit, lumpia — and having lost my Filipino father, a gourmet cook, years ago — I haven’t often had the chance to eat these dishes. With tears in my eyes, I ordered some tasty eggs rolls and pansit. For a mere $5, the tastes of my youth flooded back as I wolfed the tasty noodles and crispy rolls down.
The steady stream of customers at the booth included a few of my friends and my eldest daughter who stopped by to say hello. The variety of plants was astonishing — over 100? — and quite a challenge to keep the tables stocked. It was exciting to work the other side of plant sales and see it from the selling perspective. I enjoyed talking to Sundari, the owner, grower and author of “The Idiots Guide to Urban Homesteading” and tap into her knowledge of heirloom vegetables and producing plants for sale. By the time we loaded hundreds of left over seedlings in labeled crates, broke down the tables and tents, the sun was hot and I was ready for a cold drink and a rest. I am happy with my load of plants and looking forward to one more shift. Until then, I’ll be thinking about the plants I’ll select next time.