Pumpkins and politics

The Chico farmers market meets every Saturday ‘year round, rain or shine’. A hub of the community, the stalls attract both locals and visitors keen to sample the area’s finest produce.

As the seasons change, so do the weekly offerings and I’d been promised by my hosts fruit and vegetables aplenty, fistfuls of flowers for a minimal cost and pie…really good pie.

I wasn’t disappointed in any sense and wandered the paths feeling rather smug that I’d happened upon the market at this particular time of year. It is impossible to ignore autumn in this small town; the lower part of the large Bidwell park brims with deciduous trees and, at this time of year, a carpet of leaves that seeps out of the gates and into the downtown. Journeying through the park to the north brings you out onto the open grasses of Upper Park, yellow from the summer heat. Soon it will be green but for now the hills, not too dissimilar to an African plain, can make for a pretty special evening bike ride.

Those same leaves, of every variety, coat the floor of the marketplace adding to the array of colour provided by the seasonal roots. However, despite stimulation everywhere, I couldn’t help but be drawn to one particular item. I have, for a long time, been a fan of a good pumpkin having been raised to carve them every year; a tradition I’ve continued with an odd enthusiasm into adulthood. Pumpkins have never looked so good to me as they do here. In vibrant oranges, yellows and greens and of a size that would challenge many British offerings; picking one was easy, carrying it was hard.

In the market, I’d expected the colours, the smells and the tastes; I don’t think I’d expected the politics. But, as with the season, election fever here is unavoidable, it penetrates conversations and activities; it is everywhere.

It brings with it excitement, anger, determination, hope. My lack of vote made no difference to this happy crew; they were looking to inspire and to encourage others. I was happy to oblige.

As a conversation topic, it can be a subject that we reserved Brits shy away from (especially at a dinner party..) but the political situation and future of this country is, in my experience so far, on everyone’s lips. During conversations I’ve had with locals, I’ve been impressed by the large amounts of time some are putting into considering every proposition and the passion some are employing in trying to convey that thought to others. I was lucky enough to meet one of these passionate people during my market visit.

The Butte County Health Care Coalition supports a single-payer and universal health care insurance for all, they are currently lobbying to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. On this sunny afternoon the campaign team gave me their time, a brief history of the American healthcare system and a slightly undeserved chair behind their table from where I could observe the conversations with interested passers-by. After ten minutes of getting comfortable in the seat and enjoying several introductions as ‘the English film-making doctor’, I thought I’d better leave them to it, but not before arranging to meet again later in the week to hear more of their stories and try to get to grips with the issues that brought them out to campaign on a Saturday. Their fire was infectious and I look forward to reporting back after we meet.

Until then I’ll just say this: the pie was strawberry and rhubarb, it was easily one of the best pies I’ve ever tasted. Oh yes, and the middle one is mine...

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