The day was bright and relatively warm. That realization came as a relief because our little house would likely be swamped if a large crowd appeared and needed refuge from the cold. I made another round to check how the children were getting along with their tasks. Freya tidied the interior while Sean organized the construction materials from the never ending coop project into neat piles. To Aidan fell the unenviable task of checking the yard for any messes left behind by the dogs.
After a quick change of clothes, I fired up the tractor and drove it to the little rise overlooking the entrance to our driveway. A few days before, I had purchased a big "Welcome" flag which I now fastened so it would hang from the bucket of the front-end loader. I raised the bucket as high as it would go while the boys gave me approving thumbs-up signs from the driveway.
Our property is not well marked. OK, it really isn't marked at all! We had made a little poster board sign and were nailing it to a pole when the first car slowed and turned into our driveway. By the time I had completed the task and had walked back to the house, three more cars appeared and made their way to parking spots. The children and I strolled out to welcome our guests as yet more cars arrived.
It was an exciting time. Some of the people who emerged were old friends of ours while others were completely new. We hugged some, shook hands with many, made introductions again and again while trying hard to remember every one's names. Eventually Janet arrived and the rounds of hugs and greetings began again as we put out snacks and got everyone seated in the living room.
I had been preparing a little slide show and talking points for the past couple of weeks. Showing my stripes as a nerdy engineer-historian-activist-farmer, I launched into my talk that covered the history of agriculture from before World War II, through the Green Revolution, the founding of the CSA movement and an overview of Organic Farming practices. Finally I got around to our little farm and our plans for the CSA.
Everything seemed to be going very well. People made lots of comments and asked questions to elicit more details about us and our intentions. When things finally wound down, we moved everyone outside for a tour of the farm. Once we were outside, I was amazed at the number of people who were present. Many had not come inside at all because the house had been too full and were patiently waiting for a second round of the presentation.
I led everyone around as best I could and showed them the features of our little farm and where we planned to do various things. They lined up along the fencing to the chicken enclosure as I gave a little talk about our chickens, answered questions about the coop and held a hen out for them to pet. We toured the edge of the field that had been plowed for spring planting, showed them our beehive and the bonfire circle where we plan to hold parties.
I invited those who had not heard the talk to join me in the house as the rest of our guests made their way back to their cars. We had planned for the Open House to end at 4, but I found myself still answering questions to a fairly large crowd as the clock edged toward 6pm. Once the last of them had departed, we were tired but elated at how well the day had gone.
The real surprise came when we checked the sign-up sheets that were on the dining room table. Nearly everyone who had come signed up on the spot. Two families had even paid their memberships two months early! With few exceptions, the remaining people had left saying that they just needed to talk it over with their families and would call us back. That is exactly what they did. Before three more days had passed, we had sold all twenty shares that we planned to offer for 2010.
The group of people that have joined are amazing and I couldn't be happier. They come from many walks of life and bring a wide range of strengths and levels of experience to the effort. They have already begun to pull together behind the idea of forming a community around this farming adventure. More than half have signed up to be more actively involved in planning and working together with us on the farm. All of that involvement from such a great group of reliable friends and impressive new ones, has given us the confidence to increase the number of shares that we will plant for this first year. As of today we still have a couple of openings left.
I am excited and not at all intimidated by the year ahead of us. It feels very much like a group effort and everyone is charged up to build something great together. That enthusiasm fuels my drive to do my very best. It may sound corny, but it makes me feel like my life has taken an important turn for the better.