Saturday, December 19, 2015

Farm Bulletin: 4. Der schwer gefasste entschluss (Grave—Allegro) Muss es sein? Es muss sein!

Market farmers for 14 years at the Hillsdale Farmers Market, Anthony and Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm have decided to end their tenure at the market on a high note. Tomorrow, Sunday, December 20, will be their last appearance at Hillsdale, and I highly encourage you to attend and wish them well. Regular readers, fear not, Anthony's piquant and estimable contributions to Good Stuff NW will continue as he and Carol move into their new incarnation.

As we contemplated our four final markets at Hillsdale, the mood of each corresponded uncannily to the notations on the four movements of Beethoven's final quartet, Opus 135. The cheerful return celebrating the autumn's harvest, the lively Thanksgiving market, the quiet, sedate holiday market with its singing and ambulations, and the final market marking the resolution of a weighty decision, something that must be, a mixed and contrary mood indicated: solemn—happy. Hence the cryptic Italian tempo markings on this quartet of market essays.

Without treading into the dangerous territory of translation or discerning the composer's meaning, the German notation indicates a calm resolution to a weighty decision, something that must be. Last March when we were contemplating the future, it became clear we had to decide if we would continue with an open air market into 2016. A blend of factors forced the discussion. Part business, the market's contribution to the farm's income has been slipping as other venues have expanded. We invested in a building that makes our farm more efficient and expanded the farm's capacity substantially, and we were not seeing promise of growth at Hillsdale. Part personal, we are in our 60s and the task of setting up and breaking down the stall is formidable. Especially in the summer when we have to remove everything from the van so we can make deliveries the next day. Although we use a lot of weight on the tent, twice this year the wind almost flipped it, reminding us that we are neither as strong nor as lithe as we were. The art of aging gracefully is accepting the need to change how we carry out our work. There is also an element of public policy at work. Farmers' markets are not grounded in the city's planning framework, restaurants and retail stores are. Like Peter Pan's home, no maturation or evolution is contemplated: "And Neverland will always be, the home of youth and joy and liberty, I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me, not me, no sir, not me."

We discussed various options such as truncated schedule, hiring someone to staff the stall or finding an alternate venue. Ultimately, none of these options made sense to us, neither personally nor from a business perspective. Our resolution is that starting in January, we will sell directly from the farm on selected days. The first scheduled days are:
  • 9th and 10th of January, 2-5 pm
  • 13th and 14th of February, 2-5 pm
This decision allows us to retain the satisfaction of direct sales and yet meet the growing needs from our other customers. We are about 40 minutes west of Portland, so it is not a daunting trip. It will be a different experience, true, but we will do our best to make it a rewarding one as well. For example, instead of running out of berries, we can run out for berries. Instead of having to wait a week for cornmeal if we run out, you just have to wait for us to mill some more. Oh yes, and we will have calendars available in January.

Last week, Leah Scafe of LetUmEat posted an interview covering our reflections on becoming vendors at Hillsdale, and the changes ahead. As you all know, New Seasons and Food Front carry our berries and we we plan to test the waters on other crops we grow. In addition, Josh Alsberg, formerly of New Seasons and Food Front, is preparing to open the produce stall Rubinette Produce Market in the new Providore market that will open at NE 24th and Sandy in late January or early February 2016. Alsberg is keen to build on our long working relationship, and we are offering no resistance to his overtures.

It is new and unfamiliar territory for us.

Photo at top by Linda Colwell.

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