Teaching in the D

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 03 2011

When is a Cucumber Not A Cucumber?

When the farmer’s market saleswoman tells you it’s a pickle!

Today I ventured to Eastern Market, Detroit’s most famous farmer’s market (over 4000 people visit some Saturdays). Eastern Market, located right in downtown Detroit, is HUGE! It is literally city block after block of tables of everything imaginable – animal, vegetable, mineral, and more! People sell clothes, soaps, buttons, breads, cheeses, meats, flowers, plants, herbs, honey, candy, and, of course, fruits and vegetables. It is composed of completely outdoor components mixed with “sheds” – giant permanent gazebos that keep people dry and cool in the summer heat (it was over 100 degrees again today). Michigan is a heavily agricultural state – one source I saw said that it is second only to California in terms of its agricultural diversity, and the market draws from nearby Canadian provinces as well. The point: They have anything you could want, and lots of it!

The inside of an Eastern Market Shed. This one was probably the emptiest of any of them -others were packed with people.

Part of one stall of an outside plant vendor... Walking through this area is like being in a botanical garden!

One of the most surprising things to me about Detroit is how often I find crowds of people. Driving through Detroit, especially downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods, you find a mix of renewal and ghost town – there will be a thriving cafe next to an abandoned building with the roof caved in next to an abandoned industrial building converted to artists’ lofts next to an empty lot next to a hip vegan restaurant.  However, the aesthetic of abandonment is a result of the urban planning of Detroit (for some preparatory context, I commute 15 miles each way to get to work, and I don’t even live in the farthest neighborhood). Here’s how the math shakes down: Detroit itself has about 950,000 people, and it was a Big Deal in the news when it dropped below a million. The City of Chicago, for comparison, has about 2.7 million. However, metro Detroit has, depending on how you count using 2010 figures, between 3.9 and 5.2 million people. So why does Detroit feel so empty? Because the city of Detroit is, again depending on how you count, between 1,200 to over 4,000 square miles. Chicago is roughly 250 square miles. People who live, work, or play in the Detroit area cover a HUGE AREA, so obviously there’s lots of space for us.

However, that amazing volume of people can be brought together for some pretty awesome events. There were hundreds of people when I showed up to Eastern Market today (which was 7 hours after it opened) and it was a holiday weekend with several annual arts and food festivals going on in other areas today. I’ve found similar experiences with community services day (such as where we painted the mural below) and Jewish services (I’ve yet to be at a service with under 100 people).

A scene from "The Lorax", painted across the front of an abandoned elementary school in a day with Summer in the City.

There are so many people around who have been helping keep Detroit a quiet hub of activity and awesome… and I’m really enjoying starting to find all the hives. Today’s honey (for under $20!): four cucumbers (or possibly three cucumbers and one pickle? Evidently the baskets of what appeared to me to be identical oblong green veggies were in fact different… I got quite a talking to from one saleswoman about this!), a fantastic cinnamon roll, a beautiful lily plant (the pollen of which will stain my fingers like iodine as well as my car’s seat), and a beautiful bouquet of flowers! Pictures of my finds below!

These blue orchids were possibly the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen (with all the love in the world to my daylily back home)... Unfortunately, at $4 a stem, I couldn't take one home with me!

My new roommate, who will hopefully be quieter than my old one, on her ledge in my living room. ;)

I have a major weakness for flowers, especially roses. Yellow aren't usually my type, but they were so beautiful and summery that I just had to take these home with me!

Come on, how can you not smile looking at those?

I’ll update again soon on my adventures in Detroit – this city is so fascinating, and hopefully I’ll have tales from the classroom soon as well. I can’t wait!

5 Responses

  1. LOLgoose

    I wasn’t going to smile at your flowers until you begged. Then I laughed at you and smiled at the flowers. Also the blue orchids are amazing.

  2. G rammy

    So greaaataa toa read your latest blog! If for some reason it doesn’t work out with TFA, you consider getting a job with the Detroit Chamber of Commerce/visitors bureau. After what I just read, I can’t waita to visit. I think your love of roses is genetic.

  3. CC

    You are taking me the market when I visit.

  4. This market looks awesome! You should also get some hummus. Detroit has a huge Lebanese/Palestinian community and it’s bound to be nommy.

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One Girl's Teach for America Detroit Experience

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