No more aching arms and squashed strawberries
By Rachel Trachten
Have you seen someone like me at your local farmers’ market—a bedraggled shopper with an overloaded bag on each arm and a bulging backpack bringing up the rear? Even as I’m leaving the market, I can’t help making one last impulse purchase, stuffing a few apples or a head of lettuce into my bag. By the time I get home, the damage has been done: Strawberries are squashed, tomatoes ooze, a cracked egg drips onto the salad greens. So you can see why I was happy to meet Albany resident Ryan Crosbie, a man with a clever idea.
Crosbie lives a short walk from the Kensington Farmers’ Market, where he often found himself negotiating a wagon, stroller, and too many bags. He tried out a wire “granny cart,” but that was no better. However, for a handy guy who has crafted custom furniture, a bike shed, and a variety of items needed at a winery, this was just a design problem.
Starting last September in his home garage, Crosbie got to work designing and redesigning the Harvest Made Market Cart, a nifty three-tier plywood carrier that makes it easy to transport your haul while keeping fragile items intact. Initially, he didn’t consider the need to convey the cart in a car, but when his mother-in-law reminded him that she drives to the market in Davis, Crosbie got to work on a latching system that allows the cart’s top two baskets to be easily separated from the bottom one so the whole thing can be placed in the car. Other improvements have come along as people see and test out the cart, like two cupholders and a slot to hold a cell phone. Fragile items can be stashed in the middle basket on a shelf that folds away when not needed. The design also allows for tall items like flowers or even an umbrella to fit neatly into the bottom two baskets. Crosbie has made multiple prototypes, learning as he goes and studying stroller design for tips on latches and wheels.
On a recent Sunday at the Temescal Farmers’ Market, Peggy Kass of Kassenhoff Growers Plant Nursery gave the cart a trial run.
“Everyone was so excited,” she says, describing how people swarmed in for a closer look with remarks of, “That’s so cute!” Kass appreciates that even after the cart was loaded with heavy produce, it was still easy to maneuver and take apart. Helen Krayenhoff (Kass’s partner and this issue’s cover artist) recommended adding a section for small personal goods like hand sanitizer and keys, a suggestion Crosbie is working on.
As the cart approaches a final version, Crosbie has started reaching out to market managers and envisions having a cart rental option at some markets. Andréa Pinal-Boca, program manager for the Urban Village Farmers’ Market Association, was enthusiastic about seeing the cart at the Temescal Market. “[I] so appreciated such an innovative product specifically designed to promote farmers’ market shopping and all the ecological benefits that come with it. I am excited to see where it goes!”
To scale up production, Crosbie has joined forces with MAMBA Manufacturing, a small team of builders working in El Cerrito. Once the design is finalized, he plans to apply for a patent and imagines a time when carts are manufactured in other cities using his design and instructions. “It could be made locally wherever you buy it,” he says.
He’s also thinking beyond the cart to other products designed to make farmers’ market shopping more convenient. Two ideas: a basket for those times when you stop by the market for just a few items and a sheath to carry knives in need of sharpening.
Working on the cart during the pandemic has helped Crosbie to stay positive. “I feel very fortunate to be creating during this time,” he says. As the pandemic eases, he hopes people will let go of the convenience of grocery delivery and choose the farmers’ market with its chance to get out and talk with neighbors. “The biggest reward I can think of,” he says, “is getting people to the market.” ♦
The Harvest Made Market Cart will be available starting in mid-March at harvestmade.us. Use code edible30 for a discount of $30, bringing the cost to $130.