Monday, October 29, 2007

More about Need-a-Bag? Project

The only thing about our experience that was frustrating (okay, well the only other thing and I'll get to the other thing in a bit) was that people couldn't quite wrap their brains around the concept. The bags were completely free and available to use instead of the plastic grocery bags but every time we would say, "hey, need a bag for your purchases?" they'd look at the proffered bag and sigh, "I have about 50 of those at home..." And then we'd see them later on with a ten plastic grocery bags filled with produce! It was really frustrating.

How do you get across the idea that it doesn't matter if you forgot your cloth shopping bags at home because we have some for you to use in the here and now? We also tried to get across the concept that people could drop off any extra cloth bags to be recycled through the project. That idea people seemed to understand and DG got a couple of people promising to bring some bags next weekend. I think the next time we go we're not going to get a table in the farmer's market proper, but just hand out bags to people waiting at the gate to get in and then have a box for people to drop off bags they want to give to the project. It will take less time and we'll have more success because when we did that this past weekend people were more receptive to taking the bags, especially when you practically shove them in their hands.

Also, we'll not swoop in and take over someone else's spot at the farmer's market, like we did this past weekend. This was completely unintentional, honest. When we got to the market and milled about in front of the gate looking expectant, Jared, the nice farmer's market superintendent, came up and said "hi, you must be the people who called yesterday." And this was true -- I had called yesterday and left a voicemail message to talk to someone about coming to the farmer's market. And so we said, "yeah, that's us," and Jared showed us in and set us up next to a nice lady from Nature Parks Operations.

Then, while DG was doing her actual Saturday farmer's market shopping, a woman stopped at the table and asked where she could find Jared. I looked around but didn't see him and said I'd keep an eye out for him. She explained that she was from Slow Food International and she was supposed to get a table at the farmer's market so she could recruit for a new Gainesville chapter. While she was talking it kind of became apparent to me that Jared thought me and DG were Slow Food International and gave us their spot. I saw the woman and her friend later on set up on the rickety old picnic table next to the gate -- probably where DG and I should have been. I didn't say anything for two reasons: one, I was not definitely sure that we had snaked this woman's spot and, two, we were here first, dammit! If Slow Food International had been a little faster, they would have gotten the primo spot, okay?

After DG got back and I told her my suspicions, we decided that we wouldn't take action immediately and would have our awkward conversation with Jared later. In the meantime, DG got some incredible croissants next door and I decided to go get some field peas from the lady up the aisle a piece. So, I'm standing there talking to the nice lady about how to prepare field peas and getting another recipe from a woman who was also standing there, and DG sidles up to me and whispers, "are you insane?" When I give her a "huh?" look she points at the plastic grocery bag I am now holding with the baggie of field peas inside. Duh! It was so automatic, we're chatting and before I know it she's bagged my purchase and handed it over. I sheepishly handed back the plastic grocery bag and went back with DG to our table.

All in all it was a lot of fun -- DG came up with the idea of putting a box just inside the gate for donations, and doing some literature to explain the concept a little more thoroughly. I'm going to add some factoids about plastic grocery bags. She just wants to get the thing started and then do some maintenance on it and then not have to do this every weekend. It was way fun but I agree that the commitment to coming to the farmer's market for an hour every week would be hard for me.
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