Organic Dad Problems: A Chicago dad and his farmers market panic

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with Professor Foster (his “Brown Mom” wife), and their daughter Viva, who only eats free-range broccoli.

Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s fatigue, maybe it’s lack of practice, but ever since the baby came I’ve found myself pretty bad at, well, functioning. If I go into a sandwich shop, all I see is a kaleidoscope of chalkboards and options that make my head spin. I’ve forgotten how you find books in a library. I get confused purchasing CTA cards.

This weekend I found another situation in which to become bewildered and frightened.

“Why don’t you take the baby to the farmers market,” my wife says. “Get some local produce. Get some organic stuff. She should really only be eating that kind of stuff anyway.” And she hands me a diaper bag and a 2-year-old and I’m out the door. It seems like a great idea, and we’ve drifted a little from buying and eating healthily since our daughter’s first year. It seems like a perfect way to spend Saturday morning, outside True Nature Foods in Edgewater, picking through blueberries and sweet corn. I’ll be buying slightly tatty looking food with a short shelf life but much better flavor and saving the world by doing it. And I won’t have to push a cart around the Jewel and listen to Air Supply. I can strike up conversations with the locals. Maybe I’ll put some John Cougar Mellencamp on my phone. Some Neil Young. Y’know, something farm-y.


But then I get there, and the fear sets in. If you know how to operate efficiently in one of these places, please tell me how because I don’t know where to start. All the farmers are looking at me. They grew this stuff, I guess, they sweated, they brought it into town. Am I really going to tool around all the tables first, comparing items, avoiding their gaze, then come back for what I want? I think I have to just start dropping cash.

OK, so… now what? There are four different tables selling essentially the same peaches. FROM WHOM DO I BUY THE PEACHES? The prettiest girl? The table laid out with the most feng shui?   Surely not the one closest to the gate – that one probably gets the most business! Did they pay more to get that spot? Get there earlier? THE FARMERS ARE LOOKING RIGHT AT ME! So, which one do I buy from?


Then, of course, there’s the bread guy. There’s always a bread guy. And he’s all alone and sad. But I’m mostly off carbs (and so is everyone else, which is why the bread guy is sad). So I buy a muffin.

Then there’s the cheese guy, his stuff looks delicious! But I can’t eat dairy anymore. So do I blow off the cheese guy? That’s mean and vegetable-centric. So, I buy some cheese. I didn’t come here for cheese and muffins, but it’s only 9 a.m. and I’ve already spent, like, 10 bucks on cheese and muffins!

Then there’s the soap people. No idea what that’s about. Who uses bar soap, the Amish? I suppose liquid Dial is made by orphans chained to a table halfway across the world and is warming the earth, but I have to draw the line on purchases somewhere. So no soap. (And what do hippies know about soap, anyway?)

OK, I’ve bought some time buying muffins and cheese (and Metropolis Coffee). Now it’s time to get real – time for some produce. Luckily I don’t have to think too hard about it, because Viva is already grabbing food off the tables like Patty Duke in “The Miracle Worker.” Everything she snags and eats, I have to buy.

Nectarine? Check. Heirloom tomato? Check. Blueberries? Check check check. Head of broccoli?

Head of broccoli?! Check.

Weird kid.

The farmers are simultaneously tickled that my 2-year-old is eating vegetables raw, and irritated that they can’t weigh what she’s eating unless they want a handful of juice and drool. And doesn’t this stuff need to be washed? Is the food that privileged city-dwellers buy on Saturday mornings immune to E. coli? Gosh, I hope so.

Why won’t she just eat this muffin and cheese? Why is she pulling apart corn and causing avalanches of watermelon? How do I chase her, hold this basket, and drink my coffee? What does kale NORMALLY cost? If I buy my peaches here, I should really buy my tomatoes over there, right? How does one prepare green beans? Should I call my Mom? I should probably buy some honey because it’s tasty and I’ll support apiaries that fight global colony collapse and it’s all natural BUT WHAT DO YOU EVEN PUT HONEY ON? Seriously, I cannot think of ONE THING honey goes on except for silly old bears! And now my kid is eating some carrots I haven’t paid for! DO YOU SEE HOW HARD THIS HAS GOTTEN?!

Forty-five minutes and $45 later I’m schlepping home with a surprisingly small bag of surprisingly delicious produce and the bag is wet because Viva has taken one bite out of everything in there. It’s a random smattering of produce, all of which seemed appealing at the time but which probably doesn’t make a coherent dinner.

Viva’s dress is covered in tomato juice and plum juice. Most of my coffee is spilled on my shorts. I feel like I’ve made the right choice, but I also feel like our hands are very sticky.

Maybe I should have bought some of that soap after all.

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