Volunteers are the backbone and the best kept secret of Countryside Farmers’ Markets.

I would run out of fingers if I tried to count the number of times my day has been saved by volunteers.

It’s hard to express the level of dedication and the ways in which they go above and beyond at our farmers’ markets. And they don’t even get paid. It sometimes baffles me that they keep coming back.

Underneath it all is a foundation of passion that they all have for the mission and work of Countryside. Waking up on Saturday mornings before sunrise to help set up the farmers’ market is built in to the structure of their lives.

It is sometimes thankless work, but the markets would not run nearly as smooth and I would have pulled out all my hair if it weren’t for the work that volunteers do both in front of and behind the scenes.

Over the years, I’ve been hit with immense gratitude for our volunteers – to name a few moments:

  • One time after the market (during that extremely soggy April we had), I got the van stuck in the mud at Howe Meadow. Everybody else had left. I called a volunteer and he drove back to help push me out, even though he was on his way to other plans.
  • One of our volunteers helps fix tents. And not just ours, he fixes vendor tents as well. If something breaks, he is on it. If something needs built, he sketches a plan. He crafts ramps and wagons and brings dirt to fill holes and tries to make the market a better place for everyone.
  • When I graduated college, the volunteers gave me a collective congratulations present. I was floored.
  • One of our volunteers brings all of the table clothes home every week to wash so that we can have clean, presentable tables for market customers. She also brings a jug of water for anyone who is thirsty and keeps us supplied with treats at the information booth. She is constantly thinking of ways to help others, and is unfathomably thoughtful.
  • I recently ran in a race on a Saturday morning, and one volunteer took the time to look up my bib number and track my progress, wishing me good luck and cheering me on with everyone else back at the market.
  • One woman has been volunteering since before CVNP was a National Park (it used to be called a Recreation Area). She shows up rain or shine to put in her time.

Several volunteers give up their entire Saturday mornings to help staff various stations of the market: from selling cheese, to zero waste, to information booth ~ it is simply amazing to experience the crowd that humbly holds up various aspects of the market each week.

I think I am most impressed because there is often no incentive for volunteers to return other than their own desire to continue to help. When I have a day off, I am quick to devote those free hours to doing things I want to do, which makes me feel quite selfish in comparison to the Countryside volunteer.

Basically, I just wanted to shine the light on the people who keep showing up to help us do what we do (for free). I am comforted by their dedication and wisdom and every Saturday I am grateful to see their faces.

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