We are busy preparing for July 24th, as we are a stop on the Western PA Buy Fresh Buy Local farm tour. We will be open extended hours that day, from 10 AM to 6 PM. We will also have a short walking tour so our guests can get an up-close look at the poultry we raise, fun facts, and a better idea of what it takes to successfully care for birds in an organic, cage-free environment. We're excited to be a part of this year's tour, and wanted to give some helpful ideas on what we, as farmers, expect from you, our visitors. Becoming a valued customer of a local farm doesn't take a lot of money. It involves following some basic etiquette rules. Here is the inside track! (These apply the farm stand visits on non-tour days as well, and are good to keep in mind no matter what farm you are visiting.)
Know what time the tour is going on/stand is open. Arrive early, and we'll be in the fields picking the day's fresh produce or tending to morning chores. Arrive late, and we're likely to be tired or just sitting down to a meal. Neither is ideal. Respect your farmer, and if you absolutely can't make it on time, at the very least call to see if you can make alternate arrangements, and stick to them. Don't show up Sunday at dinnertime if we agreed to a Monday morning pick up because you were in the mood to take a drive. If you don't know your farmer well enough to expect them to drop by your house unannounced for a cup of coffee, don't drop by the farm unannounced because you're in the mood for bacon.
Butt Out. Unless you see a designated area, assume smoking is prohibited. Wooden barns, hay, sawdust and the like are all flammable and fire is one of a farmer's worst nightmares. Animals don't know what a cigarette butt is, and, still smoldering or not, may try to eat it. It's also not a nice smell around the fresh food we have for sale.
Respect Privacy. I'm a private person. I really don't like strangers wandering though my back yard and don't imagine you would enjoy it either. Please remember that a family farm is a home as well as a business, and if you're unsure which areas are private and which are public, please, please ask before taking a self-guided tour. "I'm from the city" is no excuse to wander around without permission, even if you think you might get a better view of the cows from under my laundry line. Especially if it's after hours and you're smoking a cigarette.
Find a Pet Sitter. We love animals, that's why we choose to farm. However, we can't guarantee the safety of your pet when you bring it here, nor are we sure it won't get loose and chase the livestock, which can cause injury to our animals or a day of fixing fences for us. I also don't want to feed my table full of free samples to anyone other than the human visitors, so please leave your pooch at home, or at least in the car.
Ask before you taste. Unless it is a U-pick farm, please don't help yourself to the produce. (and even then, be sure to follow the rules of where to pick and how to pay for those tasty treats!) A farmer might just be happy to give you a free sample of something, but please don't pick up a pint of blueberries, taste a few, and then put it back. The next customer will thank you too.
Kids are welcome. But please, make sure you are supervising them. That wide open space that looks fun to run across may just be a freshly planted field that would be harmed by little feet. Little ones can be in danger if they get through a fence near large animals or wander towards farm machinery, and no one wants to see anyone get hurt on a visit.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. We are really proud of what we do, and want you to understand where your food comes from and how it is produced. Don't see what you are looking for? Ask when it will be available, since many times it depends on the weather, unlike a grocery store. Understand that a late frost, hot weather, or hungry wildlife may have changed the date when the crop you are looking for will be ready.
Some of these ideas may sound silly, or like I'm making things up, but every single one has happened to me in the past year. I don't think any of the folks meant to cause problems or bad feelings, they simply didn't think. I promise, this will make you stand out in the mind of your farmer, but we'd much rather remember you for pleasant conversation and great questions about how your food is raised. Follow the easy steps above, and you're well on your way to being a farm stand V.I.P.!
For more information on the Buy Fresh Buy Local farm tour, which is taking place Saturday July 24 and features 24 Western Pennsylvania farms and 11 restaurants for just $10 per carload, check out http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=116297249299054396449.000488370651d72096061&ll=42.803462,-77.871094&spn=4.247492,9.876709&z=7 for an interactive map with all the details!