From Overwhelm to Opportunity- 2020 in Retrospect
After 3 weeks of lambing, I’m are feeling good about the lambs and a bit tired too (I blame day savings time!)
I can recall somewhat hazily, feeling similarly a year ago when we decided to pull out of winter market entirely and instead offer pick-up at the farm. I can vividly recall my sense of overwhelm with the barrage of information coming through phone calls, emails and texts the farm was receiving. These included our order system, only as sophisticated as sending an email with the products you’d like and whether you would pick-up on Saturday or Sunday. I integrated new tasks into my farm schedule such as printing and packing orders, updating the product list on our website and writing the newsletter.
Cumulatively these tasks are the ones with the most lasting impact. I didn’t know it at the time, but offering this ease to all of you, would fundamentally change the trajectory of our business.
Here’s how we’ve seen this particular aspect evolve in a few brief points. Offering order ahead and pick-up options went from being a reactionary solution to a rapid change in the market. After about 6 weeks of our order by email scheme, we were finally ready (and badly needing) new ways to manage orders, create pick-sheets and process payments that would allow us to get to bed a bit earlier AND help us transition to the new unknowns of market season.
We joined Merry Meeting Kitchen, founded by Jenn Legnini and put up an online store in about 10 days. It has only become apparent in retrospect, that what we did was “open” a new market that has created a consistent way for new folks to connect to our farm and more readily shop for local food. Having an online store has made it easier to see what’s in season, be assured we’ll have what you need at market and because of the format of Merry Meeting Kitchen- permit more folks to shop locally without even having to come to a farmers’ market!
One of the biggest changes was the sheer volume of people we met in our muddy dooryard. Many showed up with a sense of urgency, caused by the national hiccups in meat processing. Never have I paid such close attention to our harvest schedule and been more diligent in communicating the availability of our products! While we had been talking about opening an on-farm store for several years, 2020 made it imperative to include an on-farm pick-up day.
From across the pick-up table, we bore witness to the unfolding impact COVID would have on our collective ability to gather, hug people, share food and more. It highlighted the differences between our situation with plenty of room to roam unmasked, with the reality of many (even here in Maine) where our population density is relatively low. Folks would (and still do) show up on our little hill, throw open their car doors and declare the air fresher and the silence more welcome.
This awareness of our relative privilege was amplified by the cultural awakening of 2020. It became very clear that social justice is another point of connection with many of you. This realization morphed to intention as we modified our holistic goals of financial stability to include a commitment to and an investment in mutual aid. Refining this goal mirrors our commitments to collaboration with nature, care for our animals, contributions to community and reducing stress to improve our quality of life. We’re grateful to have integrated this first step and continue to consider how to support BIPOC communities.
Here’s to a year with grounding in knowledge, appreciation for the now and more healthy, local food to sustain us as we move into our “new normal” bolstered by experience and (I hope) greater empathy.
To be clear, this post isn’t exhaustive. We thank the numerous organizations that aided us, the individuals who showed their appreciation and those that continue to extend us patience whether in the mistakes we’ve made or those I’m sure we’ll make in future.