Agricultural Awareness

The Dancing Farmer: Honor System

 

Welcome to part II of our blog post on our road side farm stand.  We hope to share some insights into effectively running an unmanned roadside stand to sell your produce, meat, preserves, wood crafts, or any other item fit for roadside commerce.  Our roadside stand has been a blessing to our small diversified family farm operation.

Our roadside stand runs on the honor system.  We do not hire anyone to stand and exchange money, rather we trust our farm supporters to pay the asking price into an honor box, which is under lock and key.  When your hunger for vegetables grown without the use of pesticides,  herbicides, and chemical fertilizers brings you to The Dancing Farmer farm stand at MacCurdy Farm the first thing you will notice is the absence of any workers in it.  Do not be alarmed, we have a system in place.  The honor system.

The decision to employ the use of the honor system was born out of necessity as we needed to allocate money towards infrastructure and operating costs for the first year of small fruit and vegetable production on the farm however, charity is very much an aspect of the system because we want to see people eating well as well as make them feel trusted.  At the moment we employ pickers and farm hands when needed but we couldn’t justify paying someone to work the stand 10 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week.  After a little research online and some conversations with food conscious people about the honor box system use in other parts of our country, we decided to go ahead and try it out.  We had nothing to lose.

chalkboard-price-list

Our prices are listed on the chalkboard on the wall as well as marked on any packaged produce items.  A customer simply has to do the math.  Time to put those math skills you told your middle school math teacher you’d never use to work.  To keep things simple, our prices go to the 50 cent of a dollar.  We use competitive pricing bearing in mind that we charge a premium on most of our products as they are all grown according to organic principles.  However, we understand that times are tough in our economically challenged area so we try to keep our prices affordable so that everyone can eat healthy in our region.  You can always pay more if you feel the prices are too low but we ask that everyone please honor the asking price.  From time to time we have talked to people who were a little short on change.  We’ve told them to simply pay the difference the next time they pass by.  On a couple occasions patrons have brought the money they owed to our booth at the Restigouche Farmer’s market.  That’s honesty! We love it.

built-in-honor-box

Honor Box Code

Pay the asking price

If you are short on change, pay the difference the next time.

Cash only.

Place unwanted greens/bad veggies in compost pale

Spread the word.

Feel free to leave comments.

We’re watching you, just kidding, we trust you.

This year we stocked the produce stand with the following items: Strawberries, lettuces, spinach, rainbow swiss chard, radishes, tomatoes (different varieties), hot peppers, green peppers, carrots, beets, kale, dill, field cucumber, English cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, yellow beans, pickles, assortments of herbs, and hanging wave petunia baskets.  Everything sold well with little waste.  Any waste (swiss chard, tomatoes, lettuces) went to the pasture turkeys and chickens as an added source of nutrients.  Minimizing nutrient loss is essential.  Given the location of our farm stand at the base of the farm lane, we restock, empty the honor box, and check the shelf life of the produce periodically through out the day.  We plan on expanding the variety next year.  After a few conversations we made note of some regional culinary favorites that we will grow next year, which included potatoes, onions, zucchini, squash, and corn.  Regretably we only grew some of these items for family consumption this year.

Although work takes us many other places around the farm we always take time to stop and chat with customers especially if we feel they might have questions or have some confusion over how it all works.  A small diversified farm has a steady stream of jobs and tasks, much like the old time homesteaders, but much of our operation is set up within sight of the stand so we are always handy unless we are on our hay, garden, or woodlot acreage.  Availability of produce items is indicated in hand painted wooden signs attached to the exterior of the stand.  As items come in to season, the signs go up on to the wall.

As with any new venture, there is always room for improvement.  Next year we will increase our signage on the sides of the building.  We will have to level off the site with pea gravel as mud and wet became an issue this year.  Improved shelving and a double bi-fold door will also be an upgrade.  Currently, we stock the stand in the morning and bring back into store every night.

For more information on the story, you can check out an article by Bridget Yard of CBC on the Dancing Farmer.

Categories: Agricultural Awareness, Bay of Chaleur, family farming, farming, Food Awareness, four season farming, organic agriculture, organics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Food Awareness in Our Children

This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting my son’s birthday party at the farm.  For the first time in our long and drawn out Winter we had a day with sunshine and warmth, just below 0 degrees Celsius.  A day to get outside and play.  In today’s society it seems as though our children are always tuned into technology and less with the open spaces of our own backyards…and barnyards.  My wife and I decided to have our son’s party unplugged at the farm.  No smart phones, personal gaming devices, or any other form of technology, just sleds, snow wear, our means of locomotion, and an adventurous spirit.

Hay Parkour!

Hay Parkour!

I thought we’d start the party off with a brief tour of our livestock barns and introduce the kids to our animal companions on the farm.  I knew I had a limited amount of time before the freedom of the farm drew them in different directions so I took them into the world of our heritage breed chickens.   Being an educator I thought I’d pile them into the coop that contains our Plymouth Barred Rock chickens and then fire a bunch of questions at them on chickens.  Although my son is fairly well-versed in poultry talk, I was unsure of what to expect from his friends.  I started with a basic reproductive anatomy question, who lays the eggs, hens or roosters?  It might sound like a simple question, but I can honestly tell you that I’ve had some people ask me if roosters lay eggs or if roosters are required for hens to lay eggs.  Adults say the darndest! My son and his friends unanimously exclaimed, “the hens!”  I continued on with a few more questions, awaiting the hand-raising reflex and the accompanying stares, and to my surprise they collectively knew the answer to nearly every question I posed to them.  (Farmer pauses to smile).  With the exception of knowing where they roosted during the night, my son and his friends were able to confidently give rational explanations and answers about where eggs come from, which birds were roosters/hens, where they laid their eggs, and where baby chickens are made.

After the chicken barn, we made our way into the beef/hay barn.  First, we talked about how to behave around cattle so that they didn’t scare them or put themselves in harms way.  They filed into the barn, one behind another, in to the rich organic smells of hay, dung, wood, and straw. I decided to change my interactive questions to something mathematical.  I asked, “Who can estimate or guess how many cattle are in the barn?”  Some minds started to count, others grouped, and some just scanned.  In the end, after a very close guess, they got hotter until they nailed it, 27!  Number sense is alive and well in this group of grade 1 friends.  After a little chat about calving season being just around the corner and what cows eat, the kids made their way back to the hay pile.  I found myself musing over the agricultural awareness that my son, daughter, and friends demonstrated.  What a wonderful blessing to grow up in a rural area, connected to our food through ways of life like hunting, fishing, gardening, and farming.  I would even argue that children today have a high measure of food awareness unlike what has been purported by Jamie Oliver in his food revolution in America.  In our region, with respect to the aspect of where food comes from, I am compelled to believe that they have a high food awareness in that aspect.  Understanding what not to put in their bodies, is another story.

Today’s society has been socially conditioned to accept the convenience of grocery stores and supermarkets, but this has broken the link between families and the true sources of food, farms.  I jumped at the opportunity to share our family passion for farming when my son’s friends arrived for his birthday party.  I didn’t take a didactic approach to highlight what they should know but rather we took time to celebrate what they did know and thereby make the farm a more inviting place to families who want to have a relationship with their family farmer.  It’s time to place farmer in the same relationship status as knowing your family doctor, dentist, and pharmacist.  Raising children who care for the lives of animals and the health of garden vegetables is the first step in changing the mentality about current food system and it’s degradation away from the once numerous small family farm into corporate monoculture.  Biodiversity opens the mind to endless possibilities for our future generations on small family farms.

Martin Luther King in his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement suggested consumer boycotts to force change through non-violence.  I think this idea can be embraced to a degree to perpetuate ways to support the struggles and labors of farmers in your local communities.  Buying a months supply of meat from a nearby farmer, for example, diverts the flow of money directly into the producers hands, allowing them to pay bills and to continue to grow and raise food with a high level of transparency and in a manner where a sense of community is promoted around something as simple and necessary as food.  Farm visits allow families to learn about the impacts of their decisions when buying locally.  Who better to learn from about how food is raised than the farmer down the road.  Grocery stores may have an assortment of conveniences and goods but nothing beats pulling a carrot from the ground or collecting eggs from nesting boxes.  It’s this type of work that teaches an appreciation for the small family farm at an early age.  I started spending time with my dad in the hayfield around the age of 3.  True story.

Farming, it's in our genes.

Farming, it’s in our genes.

In the days that followed my sons birthday party, I watched with a great deal of agape love as I considered the well-being of my two children.  In front of me, they jumped from hay bale to hay bale, imploring me to catch them or chase them or watch them.  My whole body smiled.  They were playing exactly as I had when I was their age.  I stand resolute in my convictions about doing the work I do on the family farm to make it something better for my children as they grow into adults.  Both of them have a fondness for animals that is apparent in the kindness they show to others including their animal companions.  My son is always trying feats of strength and my daughter has a magical way of showing love to the animals.  This is not something you can teach, but it is something that you can foster.  I know they’ll both be with me in the greenhouse in the next couple months as we prepare our transplants and i’m sure they’ll have something to teach me about agricultural awareness as time goes on.  Perhaps, some day they’ll even have a chance to become involved in our birch syrup production on our farm woodlot.

Hay: Fun for all ages.

Hay: Fun for all ages.

Should any of you wish to have a tour of the farm with your children,  you can contact us at the numbers provided on the website, 506-684-2297 or 506-685-7741.  The best time of year is from the part of Spring when the ground has mostly dried and all of our seasonal operations are underway until our last harvest in fall when we have our pumpkin pick.

Categories: Agricultural Awareness, Food Awareness, future generations, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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