Farmers Market Females

On a bike ride today, my daughters and I stopped by the Stowe Farmers Market, where I was known for years as the Root Beer Float Woman. I also peddled one heck of a lot of maple syrup there. I vended there for 14 years, beginning when I was pregnant for the first time and ending when that daughter was 13. That girl pretty much grew up summers in the market, and I spent awful lot of Sundays serving up homemade ice cream with a baby either on my back or nearby, underfoot.

Today, we were merely visitors, buying sausage and cookies. I stopped to talk with a woman whose own children are long past the toddler years. I knew she and her husband had bought a farm, worked themselves as hard as humanly possible, and ended up downsizing, downsizing, downsizing, overburdened by debt, and eventually selling the greater chunk of the farm. I remembered the day they signed on that farm. I served on the board then, and we drank champagne in celebration.

Lying on the grass, later today, with my teenage daughter, staring up at Stowe’s pristine church steeple, I told my daughter that story – and more, many more. As I did, I realized just how hard so many of these farm women I knew worked. Over and over, I came up with names of women who were savvy and creative, and believed in the saving virtue of hard work with their hands.

Like everyone, all of these women have met hard times, but I would consider none of these females failures, each meeting her fate with some kind of rugged grace. It’s been a handful of years since I sold a drop of sweet stuff – maple or ice cream – at the farmers market, yet it’s also a place I still think of as home.

Only 8 percent of the country’s farms produce 72 percent of the national harvest. This is where the subsidies go. Agribusiness is concentrating so quickly that in the near future our global retail food system may be controlled by five or six firms  – in America perhaps it will be WalMart…. So why fight it? Why not? And that’s what the farm women of Vermont and America are involved in….  In the face of agribusiness intent on controlling the global food supply, you could call these women working activists.

– Peter Miller, Vermont Farm Women, 2002


Stowe, Vermont


About Brett Ann Stanciu

A writer and sugarmaker, Brett Ann lives with her two daughters in stony soil Vermont. Her novel HIDDEN VIEW was published by Green Writers Press in the fall of 2015. Let my writing speak for itself.
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2 Responses to Farmers Market Females

  1. Thank you for this lovely read! I haven’t had a root beer float in over 20 years. I shared my last one with my father. You brought me back to a happy memory!

    We’ve been trying to make a go of farmers’ markets for the last three years with our goat milk fudge. Each year we’ve hit a stumbling block; a miscarried child, an automobile accident causing traumatic brain injury, Lyme disease. We’ve downsized, then added back, then downsized again. Each spring I think THIS WILL BE THE YEAR WE MAKE IT BIG! Toward the end of each fleeting summer, I am reminded that we are human and there will always be hurdles. For me, it’s a constant inner struggle about whether to continue to try to sell our value-added product, or just concentrate on providing for ourselves with the occasional bartering. There is something very satisfying about filling our fridge, freezer and table with our own produce, meat, and milk. I’m beginning to feel that self sufficiency might be rewarding enough. I’ve never wanted to be viewed as a failure though, and will always be my own worst critic. Thank you for the reminder that transition is okay, because in the end, no matter what we decide about vending, being at the market in any capacity will always feel like home.

    P.S. I think we should get together for root beer floats and peanut butter goat milk fudge sometime. Mallory says, “Hello!”

  2. Hi Kristin, my own particular advice is, if you’re happy with self-sufficiency, remain there. If you’re feeding your family with your own foodstuffs, there’s no way you’re a failure. What kind of crazy world would ever promote that notion? Perhaps this world we live in….

    When I sold root beer floats, I brewed the root beer and made the ice cream from raw milk. Over and over, people remarked that drinking that confection reminded them of being a child. If nothing else, sometimes we need to be physically reminded that the world – despite all its difficulties and trials – is fundamentally good and sweet, and we’re meant to take pleasure in our beautiful, material earth.

    I’m entirely sympathetic to the Making It Big way of thinking, and have struggled repeatedly (and continue to do so) with defining my own parameters. This capitalist country pushes success so fiercely in terms of economics that bucking that particular definition of success can be downright difficult. And yet, the inherent human need for domesticity often gets waylaid by material gain. Nonetheless, we all know, economics matter. Right there is the rub where I often feel caught.

    Yes, I would love to see and Mallory again after all these years. Look me up sometime, and we’ll swap stories. Hello from my point of Vermont.

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