You’re reading Young & Green, the group blog written by participants of GrowNYC’s Youthmarket. This network of urban farm stands is operated by neighborhood youth, supplied by local farmers, and supplies communities throughout NYC with fresh fruits and veggies. Pretty cool, huh?
THIS WEEK'S MARKET SUPERSTAR: Will Gabriel
Meet Will, a Youthmarket manager. He worked through the 6-month 2015 season, primarily at the Gouverneur Health and Flatbush Junction Youthmarkets, and occasionally for Learn It Grow It Eat It. In his spare time, Will loves to read, write, study foreign languages, and learn about entrepreneurship.
Will is full of advice for future Youthmarket managers. When asked about his own experience working for the Youthmarket, Will says:
It was an excellent experience. Much more rewarding than I’d thought at the outset. If you’ve ever thought of running your own business or being in a position of leadership, it’s great training. You learn about yourself, the respective communities you’re working in, and how to interact with others. I met some excellent youth who were funny and smart. You’ll have some bad days, some good days, and those in between, but the better days will outweigh the worse by far. Just take it all one day at a time and look at it as a larger learning experience for life.
We just had to know more!
What did you find most satisfying about this job? The interaction - both with the customers and with the youth - was the most satisfying part of the position. On some occasions, when I was exhausted, wondering how I’d get through the day, the energy of the people and the youth kept me going.
What did you find least satisfying about this job? It’s a tie between loading/organizing the van after the markets and separating/counting the money, checks, etc.
What’s the funniest or the most interesting thing you’ve overheard at the market? Once, there was an old woman who asked me what chemicals the purple carrots were injected with. I told her none, that they naturally grew that color and that, in fact, the first carrots were purple. She insisted that they must’ve been injected with something since she was 70 years old, grew up on a farm, and had never seen carrots that color before.
Has the market changed what you eat? In what ways? Yes, slightly. Greens were part of my diet before Youthmarket, but now, I’ve increased my consumption of them.
Do you cook at home? If so, what’s your favorite easy meal to make and how long does it take? Yes, my favorite easy meal is pasta with vegetables, which takes about 20-25 minutes total.
What do your family members think about your cooking? I’m a vegetarian and they aren’t, so my cooking is seen as always insufficient, lacking...missing something, i.e. meat.
Has the market affected your future job plans? How? Yes, a little. I was interested in “the food industry” beforehand, but this job has increased the likelihood that I’ll be involved in some aspect of growing, buying, or selling food.
Has the market affected how you interact with people? Yes. It strengthens your interpersonal skills since you have to deal with so many people constantly.
What have you learned about dealing with nasty weather (super hot or cold or rainy or windy)? Firstly, for all conditions, just do the best you can!
When it’s rainy, try to keep the potatoes dry. Keep at least a few of your boxes dry, because you’ll need them for donation/ compost. Otherwise, they’ll weaken when wet and break apart easily. Breaking/broken boxes will then cause a headache for both you and the driver later on when you’re packing up. The top of the tent will collect lots of water, like a waterfall, so be careful when closing down. Pull tables in a bit, so customers, and your produce, don’t get wet. Be aware that your price tags may also become illegible if written in marker.
When it's windy, tie the tents to the weights and to the legs of tables (with lots of produce) for additional weighted support. Put extra tape on the price lists so they don’t fly off. Also, when stocking greens, stock them very closely to one another so the air won’t have a gap to lift them. Don’t put lightweight greens at the corner of the table because they’ll fly off with any gust of wind. Keep the cash box closed. It should be closed anyway if not making a transaction, but during windy days, the checks/healthbucks etc. can go flying.
If it's super cold, dress warmer than you think necessary and more importantly, don’t stop moving. A reminder for yourself and your youth, if you’re standing around, you’ll get colder quicker.
When it's super hot, adding more banners to the sides or front of your tent may provide some additional shade, which can keep you cooler. Don’t’ forget that besides the Youthmarket signs, you’ll likely have EBT signs, recipe hangers, etc., which can also be used. Also, keep the greens out of the sun as best you can - they’ll dry out quick. It might be better to keep some of the greens in the box underneath the table and restock as necessary instead of bringing them all out at once, since the moisture of the greens, lower height, and shade inside the box will provide some barrier to the high heat. Be careful as it can get very hot quickly, even in the morning. Therefore, to avoid any chances of dehydration, buy water early while you're setting up, or you can send a youth to purchase a gallon and cups before the market starts.
Prevention is better than cure, and it's always best to be prepared.
What about dealing with tough customers? I’ve found it’s best to try and maintain one’s composure. Even when you must be firm, don’t yell or scream.
What’s the most important question you think customers at the market should ask? “How does the market work?” Many customers often don’t know that they can and should bag their own things, different priced produce should be bagged separately, what currencies we accept, where to pay, and who to see if they had further questions. If they knew this, it would solve a lot of confusion.
What’s your favorite fruit or veggie that you tried for the first time while working at the market? Lemon cucumbers.
What’s one you’re not crazy about? Kohlrabi.
What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about working for Youthmarket? Firstly, “you don’t know.” Meaning that you shouldn’t make strong assumptions about what will sell or not. Obviously, there are cultural cues you can take, but you won’t know until you present it, regardless of price. Secondly, you’re going to have good days, bad days, and strange days. Try your best to stay organized, it’ll really help you. Don’t forget you’re part of a team consisting of yourself and the youth. They are there to help you and you should be there to both help and guide them. Some youth may be new to the employment arena and will require persistent instructional guidance. Therefore, you must be able to instruct them, but you are not their master, so remember to always be respectful. Instead of a master, think of yourself as a teacher providing an example to the youth. Lastly, you should be willing to participate in the “dirty work” of tying boxes, sweeping, cleaning, etc. as well. Have your best youth, if they’re interested and capable, help you with counting the WIC/Senior checks, it’ll save you lots of time.
MORE YOUNG & GREEN!
• Greetings from the Best Cooking Duo!
• Meet Amaya
ALL PHOTOS: GROW NYC'S YOUTHMARKET