We spent a very fun couple of days at the Common Ground Fair this year. We always have fun, eat lots of food, and find some new source of inspiration to carry us through the winter months. We went to Kendra Michaud’s wood-fired bread baking workshop and picked up a few more pointers for our new oven. Listened to Mark Guzzi’s keynote, as well as his garlic lecture. Checked in with Cheryl Wixson about root-cellaring.
Ten years ago, we used to be able to sell our cheese in the farmers’ market area of the fair. We sold a lot of cheese, had a lot of fun, and many new people discovered us that way. But that was back in the day when you didn’t need to be certified organic in order to sell there. In 2000, the fair organizers began requiring anyone selling any kind of food to be certified. For years afterward, there was no cheese, local chicken or several other foods, stilll grown locally and sustainably, but not certified organic. It pissed me off then and it still pisses me off, that it’s OK to truck in certified organic food from anywhere in the world (coffee is at the fair this year!!!) but our farm, a mere 25 miles from the fairground, is excluded because we are not certified.
This leads to MUCH customer confusion! They don’t understand why I am not at the fair. They don’t understand why we’re not organic –many people assume that we are since we sell at a farmers’ market. Not so!
Here are our reasons for not being certified organic, although we manage our farm organically:
We don’t have the land base to establish rotational pasture. We only have 6 acres, enough for goats, but not for pasture. Goats don’t really graze so much as browse anyway, and they are very happy browsing in our second-growth woods.
We buy our hay locally, from a farm six miles away. This makes much more sense to me than trucking in organic hay from Canada or wherever. Our hay farmer doesn’t use pesticides, he simply isn’t certified, either. We haven’t got storage for a lot of hay, so he stores it for us. Works well that way.
We can’t afford organic grain. We don’t feel what is available is dependable or of high quality.
We don’t use antibiotics, but reserve the right to do so in order to save the life of one of our animals. Wouldn’t you?
We never use artificial hormones. Why on earth would we? Our goats are happy, and give us all the milk we need.
I’m not sure I really want to sell cheese at the fair, truth be told. I have much more fun just going to the fair, and not working. But I am tired of explaining it to people, and tired of having to go incognito, because if customers see me there, they think the cheese is not far behind.
(With apologies to John Lennon)
I’m so tired of dragging around the 50-lb coveralls to do outside chores.
I’m so tired of frozen buckets of water to thaw each day, frozen pipes in the dairy to thaw each day.
I’m so tired of frozen fingers because I can’t get out my leatherman with gloves on, or open the gate with gloves on, or hook up the hose with gloves on, or bail ice out of the water tank with gloves on.
I’m so tired of seeing my breath inside the house.
I’m so tired of being cold at work because the heat doesn’t work right.
I’m so tired of carrying firewood with hands that can’t grip anymore, and arms that can’t reach or lift, and a back that can’t carry anymore.
I’m so tired of driving everywhere at 25 mph because the roads are so dreadful.
I’m so tired of all the extra effort of just getting through a winter day.
Please don’t let the groundhog see his shadow.
Customer Fatigue is a new term we came up with this season at farmers’ market to describe that reaction you get when the 100 thousandth customer asks the same question AGAIN.
Here for your entertainment is a list of those questions:
1. Do you have to milk the goats twice a day?
2. How much milk does a goat give?
3. Do you eat your goats?
4. Is your farm organic?
5. Is this cheese pasteurized?
6. Can we come visit the farm?
7. Will this cheese be OK in my hot car for ten hours while I drive back to (—fill in the blank —)?
8. Is this cheese vegetarian?
9. Where is Appleton?
10. What is chevre?
I’m not sure what to do with this list, but some days it sure is hard to smile with the answer.
Fifteen inches of “poor man’s fertilizer” on April 5, for God’s sake.
Here goes my first rant… I hate the telephone. It is the biggest time waster man has invented. It is disruptive, rude and intrusive. Perfect strangers think all they have to do is pick up the phone and get some of my time for free. I run my life on a pretty tight schedule: I am in the barn milking twice a day for two to three hours, and can’t pick up the phone, even if I could hear it while the mlking machine was running. While I am making cheese, I am using my hands, and can’t pick up the phone. God bless caller ID and the answering machine, both of which can screen my calls, should I even be close enough to the phone to pick it up. I don’t have a phone in the barn, which is where I spend most of my waking hours. When I get done in the barn at night, all I want to do is eat my supper and enjoy a modicrum of family time before it’s good night Irene. I certainly don’t have the brain power to talk to anyone in the evening, and who calls farmers after 8 p.m anyway?
The message on my machine states “please leave an email address for the fastest reply”, yet people continue to leave messages with their phone number asking me to call them back. When would this be? 5 a.m. while I am drinking my morning coffee? I don’t think so. My day job in the school system isn’t very conducive to making phone calls, either, even if I wasn’t on the district’s dime or if there was a phone to use. Of course I have a cell phone, but for now, it serves more as a family walkie-talkie than a business tool.
Four separate times in the past month, I have agreed to take a scheduled phone call, only to be stood up. Waiting and waiting for the call that doesn’t come in. Two instances for phone interviews for potential jobs (them applying to me), once for an interview (when will I ever learn?). How rude is that?
So, if you want to communicate with me, please send me an email. I would be happy to answer it at 5 a.m.
And don’t even get me started on Sunday visitors.