Last week, Bloomingfoods East, in Bloomington, Indiana, accepted—and hung—this painting. I’d struggled to “get it right” for many years, and I was thrilled that the manager, Tom Zeta, and several employees received it with a gracious delight.
Why it all happened is a story that takes a bit more telling, but it started with the realization that a grocery store—which is what Bloomingfoods is, after all—is generous to its competition, allowing a farmers’ market to set up out front in its parking lot every single Wednesday of the long market season—for 34 years.
The painting features sketches of some of the farmers who offer their home-grown and/or homemade wares to the public at the Wednesday Market: Left to right, Bob Wise (Wise Acres); Jeff Padgett (Padgett Farm); Chester Lehman (Olde Lane Apple Orchard); and Marcia Veldman (Meadowlark Farm).
Six years and change have passed since I started this oil painting; finding time to work on it and trying to capture its early morning spirit (and its tiny, dime-sized faces) proved daunting. I worked from photos I took a year before Bob Wise—known as “Gladiola Bob”—died, and remembered his kind spirit each time I worked on it.
Now in its 34th year, according to Market Master Don Dunkerley and his partner, Jean Ellis, of Mountain Greenhouse in Bloomfield, Indiana, the Wednesday Market remains independent. It’s a non-profit, co-operative venture, unconnected to the city’s Parks & Rec farmers’ markets. Dunkerley has been bringing his fresh produce and plants to this market since it began, and is grateful to Bloomingfoods for their support of local farmers. “They’re so co-operative,” he said, “they help to keep a space open for us.”
I was once a vendor at this market. I’m a writer, with a few novels out under my pen name, Laura Lynn Leffers (.com), but I’d had a bit of trouble with my eyes, and started sewing market bags—focusing on a seam—until I had too many bags to foist on friends and family. While I awaited a diagnosis (it turned out to be blepharitis, a simple tear duct problem), this is the market that took me in, allowed me space, and gave me a positive outlet.
Eventually, Marcia Veldman, who sells produce and flowers at the Wednesday Market but is also the Bloomington Parks and Recreation co-ordinator for the big Saturday Market at City Hall, suggested that I apply to the Saturday Market’s monthly “A Fair of the Arts.” I did, and enjoyed being an officially “artsy” market bag vendor for a time, while I worked through my vision problem.
It didn’t keep me away from the Bloomingfoods East Wednesday Market, though. It’s accessible. No queuing up, and waiting for the McCormick’s corn. Jeff remembers the names of every single person he’s ever met (I’m sure of it). There’s a cheerful, low-key, hard working midwest air about it. Plus, you can finish your grocery shopping at Bloomingfoods.
Chester Lehman defines the 34-year collaboration between the health food store and the farm stands as “Mutually beneficial.” Marcia Veldman explains it by saying, “Part of their mission is to support local farmers.”
I was grateful to be a vendor at the Wednesday Market. And that explains the painting.