There’s no stopping the stall: whatever the claims of supermarkets and internet shopping, every week millions clamour to rough and ready markets and car boot sales.
For over five years now, when Saturday comes we’re selling and chatting by the busy roadside outside the Hornbeam Centre. It’s a key “shopfront” for OrganicLea, and a key distribution outlet for Hawkwood produce, and that of others: the Cropshare gardeners who bring their baskets of allotment surpluses from around the borough, and for Hughes Organics. The Hugheses, Grahame and Lizzie, have an organic holding in Norfolk, and pool their veg with that of a five other East Anglian growers to supply independent and community outlets in London. The stall then, is weighed down, and supported, by food from alliances: rural/urban; commercial/ subsistence. Recently we’ve started a second stall on the Leytonstone High Road, in alliance with Transition Leytonstone.
Market stalls certainly aren’t as “efficient” a method of shifting our produce as box shemes and direct sales to restaurants, yet there is something spiritually and socially vital about taking it to the streets. The streets remain a vibrant democratic space of free activity and exchange : if we don’t continuously claim this surviving commons, the privatising profiteers will.
Since June, we have also been at Walthamstow Farmers Market once a month, where, due to the spirit and rules of true farmers’ markets, we can only sell our own stuff. So the first week of each month I’m careful to hold back a decent volume and range of everything we have. On Thursday and Friday we’re rewardede by a warehouse turned exotic with the rich blend of odours of twelve different living plants, exhaling and being trimmed.
Footballers talk of “setting out our stall” at the start of a game or a season: indeed, a prompt, purposeful display is what a good food market is all about. For us, this extends beyond the fresh items for sale, to include bountiful photos and flyers that tell the story of our attempt to create an alternative food system: “propaganda amongst the pumpkins”, as we sometimes call it.
As the social dis-eases errupt into burning disturbances on the streets of NorthEast London this last couple of days, it’s good to be out there, weather blowing from cold wind to blazing sunshine to showers, on Naomi and I, amongst the vegetables we’ve sown and grown: transplanted from the forest edge to Walthamstow High Street. It feels like what urban market gardening is all about.