Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Off Season

There was an article in the Washington Post today about value-added vendors at farmers markets during the winter months. I found it ironic that a market vendor groused about the market looking more like a food court than a farmers market, but I have to agree with Bernie Prince from FreshFarm Markets when she talks about variety.

But the reality for me is that I cannot sell at a year-round farmers market. As a single woman operating my farm solo, winter is a time I need to stick closer to home. Goats have babies and more importantly, water and food need to be regularly delivered to my livestock. During market season, the animals are on pasture and there's little possibility of the gravity-fed watering system freezing solid.

Plus, I've witnessed firsthand the absolute miserable hell that local producers have gone through on painfully frigid days during winter months just to barely cover their expenses for the day, let alone turn a profit.

While participating in a metropolitan farmers market a few hours from the farm provides a much needed income, it also delivers something equally important---social stimulation, human interaction and cultural experience.

I live in white bread USA where an eighth grade education and the eschewing of electricity is the norm. There are no hipster coffee spots like Big Bear Cafe. Instead, the locals tend to congregate in private clubs like the V.F.W. or American Legion, all thick with the haze of cigarette smoke because they are exempt from anti-smoking laws. The bar scene is not an option anyway since it requires a minimum seven-mile drive to the nearest establishment.

So I sequester myself on my twenty acres with my critters and opt for a simple and quiet time to devote to writing and indoor projects. But there is still the issue of social interaction....Stephanie, a regular at the Mount Pleasant and Bloomingdale farmers markets spends a weekend bottle feeding baby goats while her family skis at White Tail.

Fortunately, some of my metropolitan customers and friends have offered the remedy to this dilemma and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for saving my sanity. They have shown up and graciously helped load hay in the barn and shared in my strange habit of bottle feeding baby goats in the living room. Steve, from NSO, trades his tuba for a tractor.

When I can't go out into the world, I am thankful that the world comes to me.

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