Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Getting a handle on this retail thing

It might sound strange, but in many ways, small-scale farming is a lot like "retail politics."  It requires not only the ability to produce goods, but to package them, market them, and provide them when and where your consumers desire.  It means creating a "personality" for your farm and behaving in ways that are consistent with that personality, standing behind what it means to be that thing.  It means forming relationships and honoring them with word and deed.

I've dabbled in a few arenas across my 40-something years, but never once got my toe stuck in retail.  Even in high school and college, I opted for waiting tables rather than standing behind a counter (even then, it was food, not fashion!).

So, as quaint and local and small-scale as it is, the farm stand is a big leap for me - one that I know will take a few bumps and bruises before I really get my legs.  That said, I have to say I am elated at the end of our first week "in business."  The unpredictability has been, well, unpredictable, but it's all part of the learning curve.

Our first two days as a stand were practically a monsoon, so I didn't even really count them as business days.  Starting on Tuesday, we sold an item here and there - more than the eggs people had come to rely on.  By Sunday, a week in and the finest weather we've seen this year, I met the day with the satisfaction and confidence that we would simply sell out of everything.  It was a weekend, a great day for cycling, walking, exploring the island.  People would be feeling adventurous and generous.  I jumped out of bed and hustled our products down to the stand, then raced back up to the house to gaze lovingly at the little tableau.

We didn't sell a thing.

Yesterday, feeling a little deflated, I decided to skip a day of baking bread and just kept to the basic eggs.  After all, it was Monday, most people would be back at work, tired and maybe grumpy from having to go in to their offices and stores on the new finest weather day we'd had this year (72 degrees!).

Cars pulled up to the stand all day long, one even inching up the long driveway to the house to ask for - of course - bread.

No, I don't understand it yet, and I may never.  But I can say honestly that I am having the most fun I've had in a long, long time.  Feeding friends and neighbors feeds my soul.

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