We Are Agriculture is a year-long series that will highlight the hard-work done by employees across the Department of Agriculture. Susan Penny, Administrative Associate and Gatekeeper for the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, is one of those employees. Stay tuned each Wednesday here on the blog or any of our social media accounts and join us in honoring those who continue to drive our state’s agriculture industry forward each day!
The State Farmers Market in Raleigh is a place of refuge, peace and joy for many attendees, vendors and employees. Susan Penny, Administrative Associate and Gatekeeper for the Raleigh farmers market, has been in love with the atmosphere since she first set foot on the grounds as a seller for one of the plant vendors nearly 20 years ago. “I sold for a few of the plant vendors out here from 2002 to 2007 and that’s when I first discovered the farmers market,” she said. “It has always felt like an escape from the stresses of the world to be a part of this beautiful and local oasis.”
Susan grew up immersed in agriculture and worked on her grandparents’ farm. “My grandfather and grandmother raised a variety of produce, including squash and zucchini,” she said. “During the summers we would work on the farm with them and learn important skills, like canning, from my grandmother.” From an early age, Susan has enjoyed playing in the dirt and reaping the rewards of her hard work, whether it be produce or plants.
In 2007, Susan was offered a job as gatekeeper of the State Farmers Market. “The employees here at the time already knew me from being a regular plant seller, so they offered me the position because of my love and passion for the market,” she said. The gatehouse is manned 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, with Christmas day being the exception. Susan and her coworkers take shifts each day of the week ensuring the gate is kept open when needed and vendors receive everything they need upon arrival.
A typical day for Susan can vary based on vendor and visitor traffic at the market, but she makes a grand effort to build relationships with as many people as possible. “Some of the truck drivers that we deal with on a weekly basis have been coming here since my very first day on the job,” she said. “We really are like one big family out here and always look forward to seeing one another.” Susan is also responsible for keeping track of vendor spaces, collecting load fees, enforcing rules when needed, keeping record of products brought into the market and providing a safe environment for employees and vendors. “The weekends are certainly the busiest days on the grounds because of the high volume of traffic for both producers and visitors,” she said. “We currently have over 100 vendors on the grounds throughout the year, so it’s a lot to manage but also a lot to offer the citizens of this state.”
Although the constant rotation of daily and seasonal vendors on the market can be difficult for Susan and her team to manage, she wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the joy that she feels in working with the people at the market every day. “Everyone out here is so willing to help one another, whether it be work related or personal,” she said. “I am so proud of the work that we do on a daily basis presenting locally grown, caught and raised products to the citizens of this state. It’s a team effort and I am honored to be a part of it.”
The vendors at the State Farmers Market are not only open and friendly to fellow vendors and market employees, but to visitors at the market as well. According to Susan, they want you to ask questions about their operation and products. “These farmers and agriculture industry individuals work so hard to bring you the best products possible and take great pride in showcasing them at the market,” she said. “They honestly want you to stop and ask them about the things you don’t understand or have never tried before. They are all willing and ready to share their stories and help you find the best groceries to feed your family.”
When she is not working at the market, Susan can often be found in her home garden experimenting with different varieties of plants or enjoying a nice cup of coffee on her front porch. “Anywhere I am outside is my happy place,” she said, “which is another reason why the market is the perfect place for me because it allows me to be outside every day.” Join us in thanking Susan for all of her hard work in keeping the market safe and operational for employees, vendors and visitors every day!