“I’m needed in this position and it’s a really nice feeling. I think particularly, something like bread, it’s such a symbol, it’s really deep down in there as an archetype of nourishment and familiarity and friendship of coming together. It’s not difficult to sell bread because of that.”
Long time market vendor, Nathan Morrison, simplified his life in 2010 when he started Simple Bread. In 2008, when Nathan was laid off from his carpentry work, he was actually relieved and so done with it. So, he set off to visit a food science friend in Iowa where his newfound passion for bread making was catalyzed: “His housemate was making bread and I was just really intrigued, it looked fun and the bread looked really good. He was like, “Go for it!” He was all about encouraging me, so I got the book that he recommended and started doing a loaf a week.” Upon his return to Asheville, he found the perfect start up market by baking for about 20-30 members of the community choir he was leading through the winter. Then, the following spring he became the first bread vendor at the West Asheville Tailgate Market.
Bread making is such a joy for Nathan, and in such contrast to his past jobs being surrounded by sharp, toxic things and always getting splinters. Making bread is a tender, fulfilling, and intentional experience for him. Feelings of reciprocity emanate from each loaf he methodically shapes and bakes. This and being in his shop are some of his favorite parts of his craft, “I really enjoy that there is time alone in my shop where it’s just my space, I’m just playing my own music or listening to a podcast being in my own sphere doing very routine work. I think this has been the same for the last 6 years now. So there’s not a lot of challenge or excitement but it is still really fulfilling, like working with everything, a living creature and knowing that it’s great for me to have routine and alone time.”
If you didn’t know, Nathan really loves seeing you each week too: “People are really excited about the bread and they are excited about seeing me weekly. There is a lot of reciprocation of the energy I’m putting into the bread. That’s so nice. I feel like a lot of jobs miss that, where people don’t really have that sense of immediate appreciation that is reinforcing what they’re doing or that it’s worth doing it. It’s really simple obviously, but that doesn’t make it less valuable.” Not only is this such a connective experience for Nathan, it is incredibly relaxing to his nervous system - something that is often overlooked in a capitalistic system where performing work by creating products to sell is how your value as a human is determined: “I really like with food, the idea of what you are putting into it other than just time, effort, and attention, it matters what state I’m in.”
Pushing back against this capitalistic structure and mindset can be the hardest part of Nathan’s work - existing as a working class person: “It’s a working class job. You have to produce to get paid, there’s a lot that’s asked of my time and my body, my physical body. So, I think that’s the case for most people who produce food or who are working class. You have to show up. There’s a way that I think some people think of working class jobs as less than. Like, “Oh it’s not really skilled work, or I’m so glad I’m not doing that.” A lot of working class jobs are fairly invisible, there’s not a lot of recognition like people picking up your trash, your servers at restaurants, and your cashiers. So often we don’t treat them as another human being, they are just a means to an end for getting what you are needing. What’s nice about the market culture is that it puts a stick in the wheel and stops people because there is just more humanness in knowing that this person grew your food. But I still think, it’s thing challenging thing for working class people remembering that they are so valuable. The world wouldn’t work without working class people.”
In addition to getting himself in the mindset of what he is going is valuable and needed, the WATM market community really helps to push for a more intentional model where people feel valued, connected, and can center their experience on uniting over food: “I think it’s obvious that when people are here, attending markets, how much of a social experience it is. It’s not just about getting the food. I think we certainly, in this culture and at this point, crave genuine interaction and having it be around food…you can’t really get more basic that that – we need food.” The goal then is not to grow a business to the point of getting handfuls of employees and do what is expected of you like selling your business, it is to do what you love, embody that into your craft, and to feel supported and needed by the community who shares in that experience: “I’m needed in this position and it’s a really nice feeling. I think particularly, something like bread, it’s such a symbol, it’s really deep down in there as an archetype of nourishment and familiarity and friendship of coming together. It’s not difficult to sell bread because of that. And when you are used to it and it’s not there, dang…”
Final fun fact about Nathan that you may or may not know! Nathan spent many teen and young adult years singing professionally and touring through America, Europe, the Balkans, Corsica, and the Republic of Georgia. This community style choir was very formative experience for Nathan and where he met many lifelong friends. Check out Northern Harmony and Village Harmony for some wonderful music.