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6 conversations about one thing

Come hang at The Grower's Market in Eugene!
A trip to the Growers Market is one of those things that cannot be rushed. To do so, to rush through, affords a cursory glance at best, of what the world *really* looks like. Growers is a cool place to buy wholesome organic food, with no middle person, which often means farm fresh local produce, and great prices. Open for business on Thursdays and Fridays in an old building facing the train station, Growers is a cooperative where members chip in and donate time to keep operations running smoothly. But it's a lot more than a buying excursion; it's a social experience that nourishes as deeply as the healthy, yummy food therein.

Today, upon reaching the nut butters, I found a woman scraping out the last of the raw sesame butter (tahini), while three of her friends stood watching. I must have groaned slightly because she looked up from the bucket and asked if I needed some, offering me half of hers. I told her that was a nice offer, but that she could have it. A bit of searching produced another unopened bucket of it. Whew! We were all pretty stoked about that. Funny how the littlest things are the most joyous! I struggled to get the tight fitting lid off; she grabbed onto a corner, pulling it off and insisted on helping me stir it up to distribute the oil that was sitting on top. I told her that it was alright, that I could do it, but she was adamant, saying that she took the last of the other tahini, so it was only fair. Don't you love that, that level of integrity and cooperation?

So she began stirring, stirring, stirring as a group of us hanging around the nut butters stood and chatted and watched the alchemical transformation of this magickal butter. A job that is often time and labor intensive, it was different this time. It didn't take long at all to produce a thick creamy and altogether yummy spread. She said, "I really love tahini, and it smells soooo good". I agreed and through mesmerized eyes commented on how beautiful it looked. Her friends sat motionless, quietly in awe of this moment. You may be thinking that it sounds like a group of people who were stoned, slipping into the groove of the moment. You'd be right! Good food and that sort of energy amongst people produces the ultimate high!

I shared my favorite way to eat tahini with her, a recipe that started many years ago with my daughter wanting a bedtime snack and having little options. We came up with a "banana split", a banana covered in tahini with raisins sprinkled on top, which my daughter thought was great! We started adding fruit to the mix and sometimes now add a sprinkling of granola. Viola! A great and most satisfying treat. My tahini comrade thought it sounded good too, and said that she was going to give it a try.

Funny, I remember that I was talking to a woman at the tahini area a while back and she told me that her favorite treat was tahini and dates. I shared my fruit and tahini recipe with her too, and she thought that sounded yummy. Must be something about the tahini energy? It is high in calcium, which soothes and nourishes the nerves...

I really intended to make this a rather quick trip to Growers, but the spirit of the day wasn't having it. Camaraderie is in every aisle, or rather in every area, of Growers Market. A Growers "regular" that I have not seen in a while came and apologized for something that he said he had said to me the last time that we crossed paths there. I didn't really remember, but it also was nothing that I was offended by. He then proceeded to tell me one of his really bad jokes, and then apologized for that. He's a colorful character that makes the Grower's experience that much more.

Looking over at what I had in my cart thinking about what else I needed for the week, a voice called out my name. Another Grower's acquaintance. He told me that he found a gold dollar while he was cleaning under the counter last week. He asked me if I thought that meant a lot of good luck - 100 x more than when a lucky penny is found. I asked if he made 100 wishes and if he kept the coin. He's not cashing it in, he says.

O.K. so I'm nearing my shopping completion here. A few more items to get and then check out. Oops, not so fast; another familiar face. I don't think that I'll be home when I told my daughter I would be. This guy, who loves films as much as I do, volunteers a few hours a week at the local art cinema in town, "The Bijou" and in exchange gets free movies. I told him that I want to get in on that gig, since The Bijou shows some great films. We talked about the new one "13 conversations about one thing" playing there now, a film that has been getting rave reviews. A review in a local rag says this about the film:

"If you've ever thought about how other people - whether central to your life or only passing through - have influenced you or how you may have affected others whose paths crossed yours even briefly, Thirteen Conversations is a fascinating puzzle to put together. For as much as it is about life changing events, it is also about glances exchanged, tentative steps towards reaching out, the unexplainable happiness of seeing a smiling face, looking at you."

Fascinating indeed, this is what my day at Growers was reminding me about. The smiling face of a stranger who asked me how I was, the amity of the woman whom I stirred tahini with. Must be a message from the universe. I'll be seeing that film soon, since this Grower's friend gave me a free pass to The Bijou!

I am finally at the check out counter now and catching up on stuff with my favorite cashier when another familiar and sweet face behind me in line asks me if I am driving a car, and which way I am going. I tell her that I am going her way, that I know where she lives since I've taken her home before. One of the spunkiest women that I know, her youth amazes me. She must be in her 70's I imagine. She tells me that hanging out with young people contributes to her vitality. And I would add, she also eats healthy organic food.

Speaking of age, while waiting for her I chatted with a good friend of mine. We talked about getting older and the changes that it brings. Silver strands are starting to grace my locks, my energy has shifted, and I think that I may be growing up a bit too. Like I am looking at things differently than I did a few years ago. I no longer think that I know everything. In fact, the older I get the more I realize that I know nothing. That's a good feeling. It's a lot of work trying to "know it all".

So, my friend and I were doing a bit of lamenting. We're still young but we can feel changes happening. The changes are both a bit exciting and scary, we both agree. I told her that we go through our 20's and 30's smooth sailing through life, not giving thought to this whole mortality thing. And then one day we wake up and everything looks different - inside and out. We laughed about some of the changes that we are experiencing, like the strange shifting of body fat and the new lines that remain after the smile fades. I think they call those lines wrinkles.

My big beef though - and I've been talking to a lot of people about this - is the grey hair thing. When men start graying, they are "distinguished", some are called "silver foxes". No argument from me, I like the look. But have you ever heard anyone say that about women who are silvering? Nobody ever says "oh, doesn't she look distinguished?" Hell no! More like, "she's looking tired, old, washed out, in need of a color". That's it! How many women color their gray? We have virtually no female role models who allow their hair to gray gracefully, they color it and cover it up, and with toxic cancer causing dyes. I told my friend that we need to provide this role for women, to model our silver hair in all of its glory. We made a pact to do so, sealing it with a hug.

Another week at the Growers Market, my fridge and my heart more fortified. It really is a groovy place to buy food, share stories, and be a part of the "real" world, where today I shared six conversations about one thing - those (little) things in life that give it meaning - that keep us wondering about the people that we cross paths with in life, whether at the Growers Market, or out on the street.
beautiful 10.Aug.2002 00:14

peace rebel boy

Wow what a nice piece of writing! Very vivid and descriptive. As a former Growers shopper now living in another city, it brought back fond memories for me. And I definitely recognized some of the wonderful Growers characters you mentioned. Thanks for posting this beautiful celebration of community to the newswire.

Reclaim the Food Conspiracy! 10.Aug.2002 21:30

Dustin M. (Mifflin Produce Buyer)

At Mifflin Co-op in Madison we have similar experiences. People regularly go out of their way to get their food from one of the few worker managed co-ops left in the Midwest. Most don't even know that we are worker managed, but simply know from the moment they walk in the door that we are different. Many people stop at our co-op as soon as they come into town to find out what?s happening, were they can sleep, and to get food from out free box. A few weeks ago a couple women who were on the road told me that their mother had told them that they had to stop at Mifflin on their way through Madison to see the revolutionary organization that she was once part of. Today, two men from Northcountry in Minneapolis (the other Midwest worker managed food co-op) to tell us about what?s happening to Blooming Prairie, the distributor that has recently monopolized the Midwest organic grocery market. The board of Blooming Prairie is ignoring the wishes of its membership in favor of selling to United Natural Foods, a giant co-operative distributor that is devouring the market on the east and west coast. We are not so much upset that it will not be a co-op, BP has treated its workers and its members horribly, but that we will be at the mercy of whatever this conglomerate wants to do to us. As someone who has spent almost a quarter of my life on both the production and sale ends of the organic industry, it makes my irate to see what the professional co-op and corporate executives are doing to the movement we have worked so hard to create. The fact that we are still here, still feeding people affordable healthy food, still loving our jobs, still creating a space for exchange of ideas and feelings, is a big fuck you to the capitalist industry that is attacking the organic movement from every angle. At Mifflin we give people a flavor of the world that has been stolen from them, literally. People here will refuse to go back. Whole Foods, PCC, the Wedge, United Natural Foods and Cal-Organic will never be able to recreate what local farmers and true Food Co-ops have to offer.At Mifflin Co-op in Madison we have similar experiences. People regularly go out of their way to support one of the few worker managed co-ops left in the Midwest. Most don't even know that we are worker managed, but simply know from the moment they walk in the door that we are different. Many people stop at our co-op as soon as they come into town to find out what?s happening, were they can sleep, and to get food from out free box. A few weeks ago a couple women who were on the road told me that their mother had told them that they had to stop at Mifflin on their way through Madison to see the revolutionary organization that she was once part of. Today, two men from Northcountry in Minneapolis (the other Midwest worker managed food co-op) to tell us about what?s happening to Blooming Prairie, the distributor that has recently monopolized the Midwest organic grocery market. The board of Blooming Prairie is ignoring the wishes of its membership in favor of selling to United Natural Foods, a giant co-operative distributor that is devouring the market on the east and west coast. We are not so much upset that it will not be a co-op, BP has treated its workers and its members horribly, but that we will be at the mercy of whatever this conglomerate wants to do to us. As someone who has spent almost a quarter of my life on both the production and sale ends of the organic industry, it makes my irate to see what the professional co-op and corporate executives are doing to the movement we have worked so hard to create. The fact that we are still here, still feeding people affordable healthy food, still loving our jobs, still creating a space for exchange of ideas and feelings, is a big fuck you to the capitalist industry that is attacking the organic movement from every angle. At Mifflin we give people a flavor of the world that has been stolen from them, literally. People here will refuse to go back. Whole Foods, PCC, the Wedge, United Natural Foods and Cal-Organic will never be able to recreate what local farmers and true Food Co-ops have to offer.

opps 10.Aug.2002 21:35

dustin

opps...

thanks dustin! 10.Aug.2002 22:18

tahini girl

Hi Dustin!

I am originally from Madison, and loved my shopping days at Mifflin St. co-op. The sensory experience of such places is healing in and of itself, so even though the corporations are moving in, we aren't moving out!

just keep doing what you're doing!

Former Mifflin Resident 11.Aug.2002 16:36

akasha akasha@efn.org

I used to live above Mifflin St Co-Op back in '72 and
Mad Town is the only place I get nastalgic for in the
mid-west. Now I have an office above the Growers Market.
The vibe is sometimes just like the early mifflin days
when i walk downstairs. I gives me cause to rejoice..
Some things of beauty seem to live outside of time...

later
acky

The not-so-sweet success of organic farming 11.Aug.2002 21:03

Doug Q. (from Growers Market)