I woke up this morning, like many mornings in my small-business lifestyle to jump on social media and start tackling the daily posts for clients. I monitor much of the conversations that happen via my phone once I’ve called it “a day” at my computer so generally I’m not surprised by comments or inbox messages as I can see them as they roll in.
Today however, I happened to glimpse part of an ongoing conversation that I somehow had missed. It was on a post that I did while at the Holiday Market in Snohomish on Saturday. Initially on that day, I was hesitant to alert folks that an ant-mask group (the same one that brought guns to the summer market) was on site and refusing to leave. However, I knew that those attending would see this growing group of people and declare that I was running a super-spreader event and “nobody was wearing masks” – thus providing a slew of negative social media interactions. Regarding this group – I witnessed them calling and texting more of their friends to arrive and while I had asked them not to gather or group up. They claimed medical exemption – of course – which I have no problem with, until we start to use that to make a statement. That’s exactly what they were doing. This same group had attended several of my events.
In the public post, I let folks know that we had both alerted the police and the health department who was on site inspecting vendors. Essentially, this let people know that we (I) had done everything in my power to control this situation and it was up to the authorities. Of course, I didn’t call the emergency number so that police would be pulled away from a real crisis, and simply let them know they could come by and help make a presence or advise me on what I could do. Neither the police nor the health department would come to my aid. The police claimed that they could do nothing based on how the current mask mandate was written. The inspector for the health department let me know that she wouldn’t do anything confrontational – as she walked around and impeded my vendors business, charged fines and gave many of my vendors a hard time. So, it became clear that I was on my own and I decided that I was not going to push the issue. Eventually, a vendor friend recognized one of the “freedom breathers” and kindly let him know the effects they were having on the market. Once again, they weren’t spending money, they were simply standing in the market “center.” Thankfully that conversation ended up with the group slowly dispersing.
I’m shaking as I recount this because of the amount of anger I have towards this situation. Not for the people that felt the need to demonstrate their rights – but more for the fact that the authorities meant to help back us up were not willing to do a damn thing. After EVERYTHING we have had to go through this season. Upon exiting the market, the health inspector let me know her concerns surrounding my event. She said it was awfully crowded and that there were folks not wearing masks. Behind MY mask, my mouth dropped. I openly asked her: “to be clear, you’re wanting me to enforce a rule that you just told me you won’t work with me to enforce? I would also love to know how best I can make people stand 6ft apart.” She simply shrugged her shoulders and said she didn’t really know. That’s our health and safety officer sent to inspect our market – as she had many times this summer. Imposing rules and regulations that are far stricter than any grocery store or big box retailer on to farmers markets, and then not having the authority to step in and help when that business is struggling to uphold those rules due to a rogue group of folks making a statement. If it wasn’t so cold out, I likely would have dissolved into a puddle of tears.
So, back to that FB post on Saturday. After I calmed down a bit, I reviewed the growing conversation happening surrounding it. I was floored to see so much positivity and support – much more than I received from the 2 authorities meant to help us. People were disgusted by the demonstration and mostly supporting our decision to at least TRY to get them to leave. They appreciated the fact that this was not our fault.
And then there were a few that chastised my decision to call the police – blatantly assuming that I was intending for these folks to be arrested or confronted with guns blazing. Some even exclaimed that “I” was part of the problem of the entirety of liberal snowflake Snohomish. These posts were just a few, and our amazing followers had already jumped on to have my back.
Until today. 5 days after the event, and somehow the conversation has turned. I now have folks on the post claiming they’d never shop from this market. Claiming that our “living in fear” is the issue with America and linking articles to science surrounding why masks don’t work. We have over 100 comments now of back-and-forth arguments and folks deciding that instead of just scrolling by, they need a public declaration to never shop from us or our vendors ever again. Some don’t even live here but have claimed they’re so glad they don’t “when a stupid event would call the police on people expressing their rights.” One I find most ironic suggests we should have taken guidance from the pumpkin farms and not required masks…Ironically I helped write the jurisdiction for our Snohomish Valley pumpkin farms because we were so well versed in the various areas of agritourism, farm retail, etc.
So, here’s the thing…
I KNOW I shouldn’t let this stuff get to me. I know I should be stronger and rise above. But right now, I’m just deflated. All of this work and STILL the shit rolls in. I’m so god damned tired. I’m 9 months into this just like the rest of humanity but I feel that for the last 6 of those months I’ve been in a constant battle with everyone and every side, simply to host farmers markets. From being called a sheep and a snowflake to being questioned on my ability to sleep at night given the fact that I’m likely killing my neighbors by continuing to hold these events. I kid you not – these are actual messages, comments and emails I’ve received.
They’re merely a block in the Jenga tower that has been this season. Along the way there have been battles to the higher ups – fighting for vendor rights, fighting for food insecurity, fighting vendors who are fighting each other. Fighting plagiarism from other farmers markets. Actual fighting while I strived to remain strong and keep up my gym time to work out the constant stress that plagued me. Fighting my body as it slowly broke down from overuse and abuse. Fighting a god damn global pandemic and trying to remain safe so I never caused anyone to question if I was a carrier.
Let’s not forget that your friendly local farmers market manager, like me, has a family at home. They’ve had worries, normal life stress, and friendships that have broken beyond repair. They’ve had their heart broken too. They have fights with their spouse over the dishes, and emotional outbursts when something shrinks in the dryer. They have meals to cook, family to tend to, and more emergencies than seem remotely possible for one single year.
So here’s the thing...
Your disappointment in me is acute. It is felt deeply, so don’t think that I sit back and take it like water droplets off a raincoat. I feel every single negative comment and question everything I did this year to try and make it work. I second-guess each decision and where it lines up with my personal and professional values. And now, I’m ridiculously tired. Tired of it all.
So when you see me next and I’m not the perky, fun-loving individual you may have seen this year, know that the façade I’ve kept up for 9 months has – perhaps – come to an end. Maybe you’ll get me on a good day and recognize the cheerful face. Today isn’t one of those days. Maybe you’ll see me when I decide that my pants fit well enough to put them on. Or, maybe you’ll see me in leggings and the same comforting hoodie I’ve worn for days because the tag doesn’t irritate me.
Just know that I’ve GOT to spend some time recovering, both mentally and physically over the next few months so I can dread doing something I love, all over again.
Just know that I’m going to be OK, but I don’t need any more judgement from anyone for a while.