Now that we've gotten a few open weekends under our belt, it's easy to be right back in the summer/market routine. The weather has been great for both the garden and the hay fields, and we're still working on getting our first cutting hay raked and put away in the barn. Dan is actually raking right now, and I'll be helping him get a few loads in the barn before dinner tonight. After dinner,when the shadows begin to fall across the garden rows, we'll work on keeping the weeds at bay in the garden. Also, tonight Hirsch's will come to pick up a pig, and we'll be grinding sausage this week. We'll cut and season the meat Thursday, let it marinate in the fridge overnight, then grind and package Friday night so we'll have fresh offerings on Saturday. Earlier today I cleaned out the incubator, then put new eggs in the hatcher. I moved rabbits around and added another tractor to the number of pens in use (and that will need feed and water daily now), both to utilize grass instead of pelleted feed and because I have a new litter of bunnies on the way. Other tasks I also have to fit in this week include mowing the lawn, getting chicken feed, canning rhubarb, bottling vinegar, mucking stalls, potting some herb starters, and taking poultry and possibly some rabbits to the livestock auction. Although it always seems as though there is no season where I don't feel busy, this is perhaps the most jam-packed part of the whole farming year. I'm also trying to finish my monthly email newsletter, get it sent out and also posted online and keep the website price list up to date, as well as blog.
As you can imagine, that doesn't leave much free time, although Dan and I have been taking some time to do things (away from the farm) that we enjoy as well. While we have to be responsible to the farm, we also don't want it to rule our lives so completely that we can't take a break or take time for ourselves. That's important, too, no matter what your occupation or how much you love it. We also see a lot of folks here in Tionesta who are on vacation, as Forest County has the highest percentage of seasonal residences anywhere in the country. Lots of people have camps or cottages that they come to in order to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We love our seasonal visitors, and find that once they visit our farm stand, many make it a point to stop by again the next time they are in our area. It becomes a destination, a sort of attraction, that they add to their vacation schedules.
However, lately I've been getting a pretty high volume of emails asking me to go out of my way to coordinate pickups for folks at times other than our business hours. They're on vacation, they tell me, and they would just rather come by Thursday. Or Friday. Or Saturday evening or sometime Sunday. Maybe Monday morning. When it's convenient for them. Some even give me a window of 5 or 6 hours, they'd like to be there sometime during that window, say between 2:00 and 7:00 PM , depending on traffic and all. (I wonder if these same people are annoyed when a plumber or cable guy gives them the same sort of time estimate!) In the past, I've bent over backwards to coordinate such pickups. This year, I'm learning to say no. I certainly don't mind accommodating someone who is picking up a whole pig or half a cow and needs to come another day because of a lack of a chest freezer at camp. But it's important to me to have some down time as well, and it's not worth it to me to cut a canoe trip or evening with friends short because someone wants to stop by for a dozen eggs or two pounds of sausage. In the past, when I had been that accommodating, my kindness has been repayed by folks showing up on a totally different day (early) because they "felt like taking a drive". Or showing up with a minivan full of family and friends who expected me to drop everything and give them an hour long tour along with the $7.50 in farm products they were buying (which I did). And it seems that, after going so far out of my way to oblige their request, it was a one-time transaction. The folks who really value what we do, who are regulars, find a way to get here when we are open. And you bet I'll be more than happy to work with someone I know as a good customer, whether it's a meat pickup or allowing them to come over to get manure for their garden. But I'm learning to say no to the out-of-the-blue requests from people I don't know. While it may sound harsh to be told to come Saturday only, the truth is that we do so many different things, without outside help, that even though I am home, I'm often not able to drop what I'm doing to cater to someone else's schedule. If I indulged every request, I'd have nothing to sell because nothing would get done.
The bottom line is that farmers are busy, busy people. Just because they may work from home doesn't mean that the public is welcome anytime. And if you want your farmer to make a special exception for you, be courteous. Make sure you have enough of a relationship with your farmer that they at least know you by first name. Make an appointed time and stick to it, just the same as you would with your doctor or lawyer. Make it worth your farmer's time- don't expect to drop by anytime for a transaction of a few dollars. If you expect a private tour, be up front about it. Don't expect one otherwise. We know your time is valuable, but please remember that ours is as well!