Saturday, June 1, 2019

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

We raised the price of strawberries this year. While we are fortunate as a farm to live in a wealthy area we try to keep a balance; for example, pick your own crops such as strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries give an equal opportunity to save some money for our customers and for us to give back to volunteer groups who pick their own and sell the produce for charity. We also participate in SNAP the government supplemental nutrition assistance program that subsidizes the cost for low-income families to purchase fruit and vegetables at farmers markets. Even as we raised the price of strawberries, it has been about a week and half before I have heard a question about our prices. The woman who I talked with on this busy Saturday is a regular and her question seemed more curious than critical. She asked, “You raised the prices from last year, are you having a bad year?” My tone even and nonchalant I replied, “So far so good, just trying to make a little profit.” Thinking back on my response, I don’t think I would have changed it, it somehow felt wrong to explain that no year, is a good year. I could have told her how the hail ripped through our farm just three days earlier, almost every piece of fruit, apple, peach, strawberry marred by the freak ice. If it heals and scars over, instead of dropping, much of our fruit harvest this summer and fall will be what we call special...a touch ugly but still delicious. The strawberry quart she held in her hand as we spoke, perky berries perfect and gleaming came from our high tunnels. These are actually a more expensive input compared to the field berries, but a guaranteed crop, shielded from the harshest weather, which we continually rely upon to bring in spring revenue after the winter drought.

We find ourselves caught on the precipice as a business, after thirty five years my parents have built up clientele that will come to us, known for the diversity of varieties and quality of the fruit, they have created a steady business. The question of wealth is an interesting one. We are wealthy in so much as we continue to work as hard as we can; we are wealthy in abundance of tasty fruit and lush work environment. We are wealthy in the customers who recognize the fruit that we produce is both environmentally sound and immensely delicious. One of the many moments that highlight this for me, was when a father and daughter came by the farm on a rainy Monday at the beginning of strawberry season. The father introduced himself but he lapsed into Ukrainian often, turning to his 7 year old daughter to translate. They had heard of us, that our berries tasted like the ones from home. Could he show his daughter how the berries grew? I gave them a tour, and slowly the daughter began to open up, more confident with her English she explained how she was in English school but still going to Ukrainian school on Saturdays. “That’s good,” I smiled, “Tradition is important, you should know both. How do you say thank you?” “Dyakuyo,” she beamed. My mood for the rest of that rainy, slow day remained lifted. How many other spaces can we create that welcome people the way that food and nature can? The ties that people have to food and culture are rooted in traditions, but the ability for those traditions to translate are numerous if we give them the space and encouragement. We are wealthy and it has nothing to do with our prices, the prices are our encouragement to continue to improve this business that has the potential to cross boundaries in our own small way.

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