Each Saturday in the fall, local farmers and others assemble on Middle Path in the center of town to sell produce, baked goods, flowers, and other homemade delicacies. The market is typically in full swing by 10 AM and lasts until noon. The Gambier Farmers Market offers us an opportunity make initial contact with members of the farm community and test our abilities as field researchers.
This Saturday you will go to the market and take time to visit with one of the people selling there. We'll assign students to particular sellers so everyone doesn't talk to the same people. You should team up and go in pairs--this will make conversation easier and enable you to talk with someone else in the class about your experiences.
Before you engage anyone in particular, take a few minutes to observe the scene. Who do you find there? What do you see going on? What mood is conveyed? How does it feel to be there? What purpose does this market have beyond providing an opportunity to buy and sell goods?
A good place to start your conversation is with the items people have for sale. Learn about a homemade relish--where the recipe comes from, what's special about it. If they have produce for sale, try to find out more about their farming operation. Is the produce overflow from a family garden, or do they operate a "truck farm" to generate a more significant amount of income? These questions might lead you naturally into a broader conversation about their lives in farming and in the broader community. Be sure to tell them a bit about the family farm project, too. Its a good way to get the word out in the community, and they'll likely be interested.
Because these people have chosen to sell in a public setting, you should not feel shy about engaging them in conversation. At the same time, be considerate. Try to talk with them when they aren't busy selling. Don't take up more than five or ten minutes of their time, and be mindful of other people who may be waiting. Be sure to buy something from them before you leave as a token of the exchange. Everything is very inexpensive, and some fresh flowers or a food treat will surely brighten your day.
As soon as you've concluded your visit, sit down with your research partner in a quiet place and discuss your experiences. What did you learn about foodways, farming, or the people involved? Did the "interview" go smoothly? How did you feel in the situation, and how did those you talked with feel about the exchange? Might the people you met be interesting participants in our project?
Write detailed observations about these experiences in your journals, describing the market in general and your interviews. Write your journal entries immediately following the visit if possible; the rich details of field experience fade from memory very quickly. We'll discuss your visits next class.
If you want to think a bit more systematically about interviewing, I recommend you take a look at Bruce Jackson's Fieldwork, pp. 63-104. We'll consider interviewing in great detail later in the course, but a quick skim of this section now would call your attention to some relevant issues and techniques.