One winter we decided it was finally time for our own farm stand. (You can decide anything in January while dreaming through garden catalogs.) Not having saved enough seed to sustain such an enterprise, we ordered wildly. Squash of course, and sweet corn. And decorative corn. And melons (“Melons?! Melons won’t make it,” says she. “We can try,” say I). And so melons it is, three kinds – and cucumbers, carrots, lettuce (five kinds), beets, broccoli, tomatoes. “Pumpkins?” asks she. “Pumpkins,!” say I. Flowers? Yes, flowers. Herbs? Yes! Shogoin turnips? (Shogoin what?). Yes, and on it went.
In our imaginations, plants were growing already, the farm stand was a-building, customers a-stopping. (Mind you, the ground was still frozen solid and not a spade of dirt had been turned, but I believe in giving luck a good workout.)
On our side, we had more than 20 years’ worth of composted horse manure at the bottom of a steep bank below the horse pasture. Getting to it seemed impossible, but on our side we also had Jim Flanagan.
Now Jim is a man who believes they only thing he can’t do with a backhoe is iron shirts. So we told him about the compost, and the steep bank, and bet he couldn’t do it. He said he’d take a look. In less than half a day he pulled out four dump truck loads of composted manure, delivered it to the garden site, licked a stamp and sent us a bill for $100.
That winter every room in the house had shelves and grow-lights, and seed flats. The whole place had an earthy fragrance that lingered for months, but hey.
We never built the farm stant the first year, there wasn’t time. We used sawhorses and plywood because an any market gardener knows – and I didn’t – one is no longer a grower and consumer. Now you become grower, picker, distributor, packager, labeler, retailer, banker, and customer service. And somebody still must pick the weeds.
Business was slow at first, but pretty soon everything we put out was gone. “Your produce tastes better than any I’ve ever had,” one customer said. We used the honor system, with a price list and a tin can for money. Once some girls got off the school bus and took a few dollars, but we said nothing, believing that if you expect honesty you get it; if you expect cheating you get that. We offered them some free produce next time they got off the bus, and the money was returned the next day. We never lost another dime.
I picked and sorted vegetables, Janet picked flowers for canning jar arrangements. They were gone within hours – people on their way home for dinner usually. She put out zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, gaillardia, daisies, yarrow, all gone. She put out dill, parsley, cumin, peppergrass and Jo Py weed. When broccoli went to blossom she sold the blooms. We sold corn and then cornstalks.
When pumpkins came in I had no time to label them, so we put out a sign reading, “Unpriced pumpkins. Pay what you think is fair, or can afford. If you have nothing, pay that.” We made a ton.
That first year would have been hard work if it weren’t so much fun. Selling our own produce: what a hoot.
Now it’s seed-ordering time again, and you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. A friend’s going to build a post-and-beam farmstand, I figure on putting up our first greenhouse, and selling organic plants along with the rest. Hey, ladies and gentlemen, when it’s January anything is possible.