A Day at the Farmers Market

On Sunday morning, I woke up a little bit differently. There (surprisingly) wasn’t the normal rooster calls outside my window and the skies were still dark enough to see the stars.

The clock read 4:30am.

From my bedroom I could hear the shuffling of my host mom in the kitchen, packing up things and putting them into the van. She had gone to sleep at the same time as I did last night. We had spent twohours wrapping honey combs into little plastic boxes and making dream catchers to sell at the market.

At about 4:45am, I finally got up from my bed. Ponta Grossa is different from your average “sterotypical” Brazilian town. The temperature can rise to 95 degrees during the day but always always drops down back to the 50’s at night. The first thing I usually do on early mornings is slip on my big fuzzy socks, my thick flannel and my leggings. This morning was no different. As my host mom and I set on our way into the chilly night, I dreamed of warmth and sun.

It is 45 minute ride from my farm to the farmers market in the city of Ponta Grossa. The view from the highway is incredibly beautiful. The lights of the city sparkle for miles and at around 5:50am, the pinks, purples and blues of the sunrise began to appear in the horizon.

Watching the bright orange sun peak over the hills made the whole “only four hours of sleep thing” worth it.

The farmers market is located in a large, open tunnel in the center of town. When we reached there, most of the stands were already set up. So my host mother and I rushed to set up the large table and lay out all the vegetables and fruits in a matter of minutes.

After that I sorted out the strawberries into half cut plastic coke bottles and wrote on a little chalkboard sign.

Morangos- cada 14 reais (Strawberries- each 14 reais)

Next we sorted out the alface (lettuce), all five types that my family grows.

Cada 1 real (Each 1 real)

Then the small containers of honey. My host dad is a beekeeper.

Cada 8 Reais.

From 7 in the morning to 12 in the afternoon, we waited. People came and went, picking up the vegetables, asking about prices, sizes, quality, etc. I usually could attend alone but once in a while someone would ask something totally out of the blue and I’d have a little panic attack. “Desculpe, ummmmmm um momento” and I’d go and call my host mom.

At lunch, we walked over to the pastel stand. Pastels are a typical Brazilian snack. A fried square of flour with a filling inside. Not really the most healthy thing in the world but incredibly delicious. I ordered one with cheese and another one with banana and doce de leite. My host mother ordered one with meat and another one with guava and cheese, also known as Romeo e Juliet.

The drinks come in a classic glass bottles. My mother ordered twoGuaranÌÁs. I’m not a big soda drinker but have found myself ordering GuaranÌÁ, a Brazilian soda made from a native fruit, every time I’m out- I know I’ll probably miss it when I go back home.

In the afternoon, things get a little bit slower. The other sellers at the market walk around and talk to each other about everything from crops and weather to family and health. My mother has been going to the market every Saturday since 1997 so she knows mostly everyone but she told me that she is still one of the newest vendors. One of the men I met has been going to the market since he was a kid, or 56 years. He would help his dad sell their vegetables on the street market until they opened the official farmers market in the city in 1990.

Today there’s about 50 vendors who come regularly. They sell everything from tupperware to churros.

One of my favorites is the lady who makes crochet clothes and slippers. She has little baby sized crochet scarves and sweaters and matching adult sized ones too. She taught me how to crochet a little heart and flower.

Another favorite is a family that sells tapioca. Tapioca is also a typical Brazilian snack but it is found mostly in the north east of Brazil. It is made by straining the tapioca seeds into a grainy flour then cooked on a griddle or pan to make something similar to a pancake. They fill it with either chocolate and fruit or something salty like butter, cheese or meat.

The lady who makes the tapioca at the farmers market has a nephew who lives in the United States. I spent about 30 minutes talking to her about her nephew and my own experiences in Brazil.

In the last hour, I returned back to my host mother’s stand where we tried to sell the last of all the produce we have. We marked down our prices to almost half. The lettuce goes from 1 real to 50 cents, the watermelon goes from 5 to 3 reais, the corn from 2 reais to 60 cents. The customers in these last minutes are the regulars. They buy basically the same stuff from the same people every week.

We began packing up everything a quarter before 4:00. By late afternoon,most vendors were in their trucks or vans and on their way back home.My host mother stuck around a little bit to talk to one of her good friends which also gave me the chance I talk to some of the other kids who come to the market to help their parents.

By 5pm, we were back home. We unloaded all the boxes from the van and gave some of the extra, spoiled stuff to the chickens and the good stuff we kept to use and cook for dinner. Then my host mom and I sat down and had cafe de tarde. She recounted all the crazy things that she found out from the other vendors and writes down all the expenses of the things sold with my host dad.

Around 11pm, I was finally able to crawl back into bed. I write in my journal about the day and go to sleep with a smile on my face. Although tiring, I know I’m lucky for days like this.

  • Pictures below: Strawberries in the half plastic coke liter bottles, “Pure Honey” containers, the chalkboard sign with prices, the van and my host mom at Tuesdays market (which takes place outside in a different location), vegetables and fruits from Saturdays market, Tapioca with strawberry and cream, the large tunnel where the Saturday market takes place.