A Day in the Life

Sustainable Food Center (SFC) runs two weekly farmers markets every Saturday—one in downtown Austin and one in Sunset Valley. We shadowed the market crew of one of our oldest vendors—Johnson’s Backyard Garden (JBG)—to see what it takes to prepare for our favorite day of the week!

4:30 a.m.—JBG Farmers Market Coordinator Devon Sisneros is already on the way to the packing shed, where produce for the day’s markets is stacked high on pallets in a giant walk-in cooler. There are seven markets to get to today, from Waco to Katy, and everyone needs to load up with veggies and equipment before they can head out. “This pallet jack has a wonky wheel; it only pushes and won’t pull,” Sisneros yells across the loading dock to a co-worker. She goes over and together they muscle the towering stack toward the waiting truck.

7:30 a.m.—Sisneros deftly backs into a tight space marked “JBG” in chalk on Fourth Street at the downtown SFC Farmers’ Market. She carefully opens the back door of the truck—checking for any cases that may have shifted in the bumpy drive from the farm—then starts unloading with the help of a few market crew members who have materialized. Setting up the market is equal parts brawn, applied psychology and artistry. New winter crops, such as rainbow carrots, go out front to draw in customers. Creating this display takes at least an hour, and customers start lining up early in an attempt to beat the rush.

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9:30 a.m.—The booth has been abuzz nonstop since the market opened at 9, and no one has taken a break; the crew offers customers recipe suggestions for their newly purchased produce, restocks veggies and reorganizes the display after a chef came through and wiped out the limited stock of golden beets. In a rare lull, one of the crew members sneaks away to pick up tacos and coffees for everyone, which they take turns eating on the back of the truck.

1 p.m.—The market is officially over, and though the crew has been at full speed all day, they spring into action to stow away any unsold produce and break down the booth. The team debriefs about the day while a few other market vendors stop by the booth—trading coffee beans and loaves of bread for a share of veggies.

2:15 p.m.—Sisneros pulls the truck into the loading dock at JBG where the day began 10 hours ago. A few other market workers have already returned and folks are recounting the day’s triumphs while they whir around unloading vehicles. The produce is now re-sorted, refreshed, hosed off and packed into clean bins for the next day’s markets. Almost every market ran out of Brussels sprouts, so Sisneros and two others wash and pack an additional 10 cases.

5:30 p.m.—Everyone heads out. Sisneros gives the loading dock one last sweep and heads home, ready to start it all over again tomorrow.

By Amy Gallo • Photography by Scott Gordon, courtesy of Johnson's Backyard Garden

For more information, visit sustainablefoodcenter.org