Commentary: Finding Family in Unexpected Places

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I have a really terrific family of blood relations. From 87-year-old Aunt Polly who sends greeting cards like clockwork, to my mama with the laugh that could wake the dead, to my cousins and kids, I am blessed. But our birth families can’t possibly serve all our needs. We often embrace kindred spirits who share no DNA.  One of my favorite families is made up of growers at the Davis Farmers Market. The market started in 1976 -- the same year my own farmer father died too young. The vendors show up twice a week at Davis’ Central Park to share tomatoes and corn in the summer; squash, dried fruit and nuts in the winter; and flowers and comfort all year long.  
Woodland farmer Ramon offers Mexican nopales cactus to help my daughter’s diabetes. Ying, who farms along the Sacramento River, always tucks extra cucumbers into my bags of green beans. I talk to Annie of Good Humus Produce from the Capay Valley. Her son Zach waves me over to see a rescued kitten; his girlfriend Nicole shares my love of Halloween pumpkins. I worry when Christine at Fiddlers Green loses her hair during chemotherapy. She’s better now, and points out her new eyebrows as she hands me multicolored beets.  
Weekly, we share stories. To their delight I give their jams to friends and wear hats made from their Angora rabbit fur as the seasons change. But that’s not all I get from my market friends, and cash is not all I give. In this world of disaster, loss and political cynicism, we care about each other, these friends who till the soil like my father. We’re family, too.

Lyra Halprin is a writer who lives in Davis.