a satisfying morning in the organic case

a productive morning in the organic case

Been working produce at the Hippie Market for about a month now, and am starting to appreciate the challenges of the job. Keeping the department fully and freshly stocked is a bit more difficult than I first understood, especially with only two or three people on at a time. I like that there’s a challenge involved, though, or else I think it would be too monotonous.

The walk-in cooler is like a puzzle: orders come in several times a day, and you have to always be looking for creative ways to find space for them on the shelves. At the same time, you’re always trying to keep the shelves on the floor as full and plentiful-looking as possible. Each box moved out of the cooler, emptied on the floor and then broken down in the prep room is like a little victory, except it doesn’t last long. The orders just keep coming and the food on the shelves just keep going.

At least we hope the food on the shelves just keeps going. The Market has only been open a year, is more than a little overpriced and is in competition with farmers markets, Whole Foods and a number of other natural foods stores in the area. Produce perishes quickly, and there have been times where entire baskets of potatoes and cases of green beans have had to be tossed because they just sat out there and got nasty. That’s kind of depressing.

Its even crazier to me to pull perfectly fine vegetables just because they have a slight imperfection or two. Any kind of wrinkling on a bell pepper or minor abrasion on a zucchini and the vegetable ceases to be worth eating in the eyes of the consumer. To be fair, though, I guess it just ceases to be worth purchasing. If they’re going to spend $2.50 on a head of locally-grown organic lettuce, it’s expected to be the most vibrant specimen available.

At least the offending vegetables don’t go completely to waste. They’re put back into boxes in a corner of the cooler, where anyone who works at the store can help themselves. Whatever’s left over gets picked up by a local survival center, where the bruises are cut away and the food gets cooked up into food for the homeless. This is indeed a consolation, but it still makes me a little ill when I see people turn up their noses at perfectly healthy, organic produce just because it doesn’t look like a plastic model.

Maybe I should force one of those people to eat one of these cucumbers we found behind the conventional display: Read the rest of this entry »

manure

There’s roughly five months worth of feces in that photo. One cow, one sheep and two goats crapped inside one barn all winter, and today I took my turn mucking out the stall. I loved every pungent minute of it. I loved the way my rain boots squished in the mud/poop. I loved the sweet smell of the manure. I loved the way two hours went by and I didn’t even notice.

I found shit-shoveling—pitchforking, really—to be alot like clearing jungle brush with a machete. It takes a while to figure out how to be really effective at it and find the groove. Also, the hay that’s layered into the shit tangles itself into one giant mass, just like the vines of the jungle. In order to clear really satisfactory patches, I discovered it helps to work in circles, disconnecting the poop-hay or vine thickets from themselves and pushing them aside, or in this case, depositing them in a wheelbarrow and dumping it on the compost pile.

There’s something about the rhythm of the work: once your body figures out how to do the job, the mind is freed and imagination (or chatter) is also possible. Taking stock in the area cleared is infinitely rewarding. Just remember to wash the blood (or poop) off your hands when you’re finished.