Those aren't actually all concord grapes (the darker ones are wine grapes), and this picture was not taken at the market, and nor do Stan and Rose Mary customarily sell grapes, but all over their personal garden hordes of grape vines climb on everything, and the grapes, which, for fifteen years have been food for the birds, made their way to market this week after I picked twenty pounds of them and found, on Stan's head, a receptive ear. If nothing else, we thought they'd be a charming addition to the stand. At three dollars a pound, selling all twenty pounds of them didn't hurt. Better than a kick in the ass. Anyway, more charming than the grapes are Stan's signs.
If one thing really sets the El Bosque Garlic Farm stand apart from the hundred plus other stands at the Santa Fe market, it's definitely the fact that the farmer is also a very well known author of fiction and non-fiction works about agriculture. And A LOT of the customers know this. I overheard shy customers saying, "this is the Garlic Testament garlic," and more forward customers saying "when are gonna write another book?" At the Santa Fe market, and really, in general, it's impossible to separate Stan the author from Stan the farmer, and the customers love it. The stand is peppered with quotes. I like this quite little one:
"Eating is an agricultural act" - Wendell Berry. Well, I don't know if this sign floats above the spinach every week, but it was my job to tack up the signs this morning (actually, they go up with velcro), and I wasn't about to leave this one in the box. This sign is why I came out to New Mexico. And Stan didn't make this sign just to create the writer-farmer illusion. Wendell Berry books are all over the farmhouse. Eating IS an agricultural act, and way too often (and for way too long) we Americans completely forget this fact. We like to think of ourselves as a post-industrial nation where microchips and Wall Street are king, where HD, flat-screen televisions, and Blu Ray are king, a country where it's almost sinful to have sympathy for the itinerant and often illegal agricultural workers who are everywhere in our country but who are so rarely seen, if only because they are squatting over a row of radishes with a giant-brimmed hats on, or because, more likely, we don't want to see them and so we don't. And so eating is not only an agricultural act, it's a political act, too. And this is what Stan's and Rose Mary's stand quietly smacks of. They've been farming their plots of New Mexico land in the traditional manner since 1971. At 72 and 78 years old respectively (and they deserve and get a ton of respect), it's pretty impressive to see them get up at four A.M., hop into a van loaded with organic onions, shallots, garlic, buttercrunch lettuce, Swiss Chard, Russian kale, bunches of arugula, tomatoes, peppers, and on and on and on. Each one of us eats every day, and those of us who eat good food, food that is good on the tongue and good on the planet, we owe that quality to the farmers like Stan and Rose Mary who get down on their hands and knees and do the work. And who nap...
About halfway through the market, Stan turns his chair around, a chair that he doesn't spend much time in, faces it toward the train tracks, and takes a 5 minute nap. Even when Santa Fe Express rolls through. Another helper at the stand told me: "Invariably, when Stan takes his nap, some customer will come into the stand and want to talk about his books." Stan lucked out today. That customer came about two minutes after his nap.