I knew, no matter what, that I would never buy from him.
I mean, who smokes while selling at the farmer's market? I don't care if you go behind your truck to do it. Isn't that sort of opposite of what the market is about? To good health and all that? You obviously don't know.
Since I work at the stand next to his, I smell his smoke often. And I sealed my dismissal of his honey early and completely -- with a dollop of disgust.
But standing ten feet away from him for several hours each week, I couldn't help but listen. And here is what I learned:
He has been keeping bees since he was eight years old. He's one of the few keepers who doesn't use chemicals on his hives. His self-appointed assistant for all things bee is his five-year-old granddaughter. She affixes labels. She even has her own bee getup. I've heard him tell this one story several times, about how he was watching her once when she was a baby and he couldn't figure out how the diaper fastened so he used duct tape. He gives free logo-printed cloth bags to customers who buy the biggest jars of honey. He has his regulars and a steady stream of customers, some of whom swear by the bee pollen he sells. It makes them feel better, they say. He has a basement full of homemade wine and he cans the vegetables he grows. He gets his large jars from restaurants and his wife sometimes uses them for storing flour and oatmeal. He appreciates it when customers return them.
He has a story.
He sells good honey.
His prices are reasonable.
He is a nice guy.
How quickly I was ready to dismiss him, based on a single action.
Okay, he smokes. Okay, I'm not a huge fan of that. But why judge? When I could first listen.
I bought a new jar of honey today. From him. Four pounds.
It's really good.