Thursday, June 20, 2013
Saying NO to Farmers Markets
The display above is of the soap I make here on our farm. This was taken a couple of weeks ago at the Farmers Market in Fairbury sponsored by The Stewards of The Land, a group of farmers Keith and I are very proud to be a part of.
We were members for many years and then to make more room for new farmers, our "status" was changed to Advisory Board Member. That's OK with us, the group helped us get started with direct farm to consumer marketing and now it's our turn to help other newbies.
For two years we very religiously set up our soap and meat and honey products at this Farmers Market every Saturday morning. It takes hours to get ready the day or two before, a hour or two of set up time (tents, tables, signs, products) and more time at home to put it all away.
Some weeks we sold only $4 worth of product.
But other weeks we sold much more. Regardless of the end sale amount we always came out ahead. Time spent with our fellow farmers chatting in between customers, time spent with the locals chatting about our products, our farms, time spent in the Antique Shoppe owned by the very gracious Kathy and Daton who lent us their parking lot for the market....all of this was time well spent.
But, this year, we decided to shift our focus. Again. Four years ago we stopped selling our milk to a co-op and shifted to on farm sales only. Three years ago we opened our Farm Store to further advance direct farm sales. Two years ago we pulled out of the Chicago restaurant scene ceasing the delivery of carcass pork. This year...we're greatly limiting our Farmers Market presence.
Don't get me wrong. We love Farmers Markets and support them, shop at them often. We will be at The Stewards of The Land Farmers Market in Fairbury at least twice this summer doing our share as "Host" farmer, but our focus will be right here. Do you understand what that means ?
It means we need about three more loads of gravel for our driveway, THAT's what it means! We have a lot of traffic up and down the lane these days.
But that's what we want. The more people can actually SEE their farmer at work, and SEE the animals at work and play and SEE the way good food should be raised, used to always be raised, the more likely we are to facilitate the growth of new farmers in our country.
Children need to hear the cow bellow, watch the pig burrow, feel the peacock feathers swirl by their feet in order for them to want to be farmers. Not all farmers are set up like we are for constant visitors, many of them must work off farm jobs and are not even home during the day doing all their farm work late into the evenings.
But for us, for us right now, on farm visitors are the key to our "success" and the success of farming in this country. In an era where farm displays in large metropolitan zoos will not even allow the child to touch their token animals or where milking is done on a life size fiberglass cow, farmers who can take the time to share their livelihood with visitors...should.
It's not easy. It sometimes interrupts our supper or breakfast or our bookwork but the payoff for our own little farm and for those kids who might never have experienced the joy of a piglet nibbling on their shoes, is really worth it. And 99% percent of our visitors are very gracious, respectful of our privacy and thankful for the few minutes of our time. We have also learned to set limits. No tours on Sunday. And we do not offer Bed and Breakfast...yet.
So this year we are saying NO to our own participation in Farmers Markets and instead saying YES to bringing the public to our farm even more than before.
If it gets too intense we can always hide out in The Secret Garden. No one knows about that, do they?