Lately I have noticed a change in the small Farmer's Market I visit on Wednesdays. It's growing. Is this due to the demand for locally grown and produced goods? Or is there another, more pressing reason for this change?
More and more Michiganians are looking for work. State officials with the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives noted that our unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent in May, hitting its highest monthly mark since October 1992. It's also the highest in the entire nation. The state's overall civilian labor force - those working or looking for jobs - included more than 5 million people last month and that number is expected to grow. The Big Three (commonly how we refer to the three automakers in Detroit) are closing plants, posting record lay offs and offering buy-outs and early retirement packages. There are a lot of us out of work and not a lot of jobs to be found. While the rest of the country is just beginning to feel the pinch of a recession, our state has been crippled for months.
Does this mean out of work former automotive executives might decided to have a lemonade stand at the Farmer's Market? Maybe. Today, for the first time there was a husband and wife team making and selling fresh lemonade and limeade at the market. I love fresh squeezed limeade, so I wandered over. I ended up buying three glasses (Two of the eco 'burban boys were tagging along) at $3 a piece. At first, I balked. Three dollars?? Doesn't that seem like a lot? But, what was wrong with my logic? A mere six months ago, before becoming a lighter consumer, I would have happily plunked down $4.29 for a Starbucks Mocha made by a crabby 17-year old "barrista". I am going to hedge a bet that the barrista wasn't worried about making her mortgage payment either.
$9 later, we were walking back to the van with three icy-cold lemon and limeades made with pure cane syrup and by a real person we chatted with for several minutes. Doesn't that taste good? My kids raved and slurped.
Since last year, when our market was mostly farmers, bakers and nursery folks, we have seen the addition of a horseradish guy, tortilla chip woman, herbal tea lady, bees wax cosmetic person and jam ladies. Today, the newest addition was the lemonade couple. Of course, I don't ask why they are there, but as you wander the market you see it. For every $5 that changes hands you hear, "Thank you. Thank you so much, I appreciate your business." You see all the vendors watching, hoping and waiting for a record day at the market.
Are these people former GM executives? Factory line workers from Ford? Office assistants from Chrysler? Maybe, maybe not. They would never tell and you would never ask. We have a sense of pride here in Detroit, always keeping a stiff upper lip through riots, gas crisis, corrupt mayors and economic free fall. We do what we can to survive, pay our mortgages and put shoes on our kids.
So, who am I not to buy that $3 lemonade from someone who appreciates my business, chats with my boys and thanks us kindly? Of course I am buying, and, as our money changes hands I say, "Thank you, this looks delicious. I hope to see you next week!" We take care of our own here in Detroit, one lemonade at a time.